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South Korea’s Plan to Compensate Victims of Forced Labour Employed in Japanese Factories During Colonial Rule: A Step Forward for Peaceful Relations, but not for Victims’ Rights

On 6 March 2023, the Republic of Korea, in the person of the Minister for Foreign Affairs Park Jin, announced a plan for South Korea to compensate South Korean citizens who were forced to work in Japanese factories under Tokyo’s thirty-five-year occupation of the Korean peninsula. The plan is an attempt to settle the long-standing dispute between South Korea and Japan over compensation for atrocities relating to the colonial past and, through this, improve the diplomatic, political, and commercial relationships between the two countries. In this blog post, I show how, despite its (potential) positive implications from an international relations perspective, the announced compensation plan proves problematic from the point of view of corporate accountability and victims’ right to prompt, adequate, and effective reparation under international law and according to human rights standards. The Context Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 was marked by gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law. These included the sexual enslavement of women and girls (the so-called “Comfort Women”)…

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