U.S. chamber of commerce eyes donation to S. Korea wartime labor fund

The American Chamber of Commerce in Korea has indicated it plans to donate to a South Korean government-backed foundation that will pay compensation to wartime laborers in a show of support for Seoul's plan to end the long-running dispute with Tokyo, a chamber official said Thursday.

The move by the chamber, which comes amid strong backing from the United States for the plan, may also encourage Japanese firms to voluntarily contribute to the foundation as hoped by Seoul.

James Kim, the chairman and CEO of AMCHAM, signaled the chamber's intention to donate to the foundation at a roundtable meeting hosted by South Korean Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Choo Kyung Ho on Wednesday while stressing the importance of cooperation between the three countries, the chamber official said.

The South Korean government this week announced its decision to compensate wartime laborers under Japan's 1910-1945 colonization through a government foundation with donations from South Korean companies.

It has expressed expectations that domestic firms that received Japan's financial support under a 1965 bilateral agreement, as well as Japanese businesses, would also be among the contributors.

Tokyo has said it will not block Japanese companies from donating voluntarily to the entity. But with business groups from the two countries planning to create a separate fund to promote exchanges among youth, the extent of Japanese donations to the foundation remains to be seen.

There is also resistance within Japan to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Nippon Steel Corp. joining the entity.

The two Japanese firms were ordered in separate rulings by South Korea's Supreme Court in 2018 to pay damages to former Korean laborers and their relatives over alleged forced labor during World War II but have refused to comply with the requests.

Their stance reflects Tokyo's assertion that all issues stemming from Japan's colonization of the Korean Peninsula were settled "completely and finally" under the 1965 bilateral agreement.

© Kyodo News