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Seoul denies media reports on GSOMIA, forced labor issues

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon on Thursday denied news reports that he had suggested an alternative solution to the forced labor issue.

A local daily had earlier reported that Lee suggested resolving the issue with funds raised from Korean and Japanese companies, with input from the Korean government. 

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon speaks at the National Assembly on Thursday. Yonhap
Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon speaks at the National Assembly on Thursday. Yonhap

Lee made the suggestion to Takeo Kawamura, a member of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party who serves as a senior official in the Japan–Korea Parliamentarians’ Union, the report said, quoting a press conference held by Kawamura on Tuesday in Japan, following his four-day visit to Korea.

“That did not happen. I have never said nor thought in that way,” Lee said at the National Assembly.

“I was shocked by the media reports, and when I called Kawamura to ask, (he) said that the reports are wrong,” Lee said. He added that he also spoke with the journalist responsible for the story, and that the journalist assured him that the article would be corrected online.

“I don’t know whether the report (is due to) negligence on Kawamura’s part, or was intentional (by the news outlet), but I find it very regrettable.”

During the visit to Korea, Kawamura held a two-hour closed-door meeting with Lee.

Japan maintains that the issue of compensating those forced into working for Japanese firms during Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula was settled through the 1965 agreement that normalized Korea-Japan relations.

South Korea’s Supreme Court, however, ruled that concerned Japanese firms must compensate the victims. The ruling has been met by strong criticism from Tokyo, which has since rolled out trade-curbing measures in retaliation.

Seoul’s presidential office meanwhile, revealed that a complaint to the Japanese broadcaster NHK has been lodged over false information about the Seoul-Tokyo military intelligence sharing agreement.

Yoon Do-han, senior press secretary to the president, said in a written statement that senior officials from the embassy to Japan met with NHK’s international news editor Tuesday.

The report in question was broadcast Aug. 27, and claimed that four members of Seoul’s National Security Council had called for the General Security of Military Information Agreement to be extended, while three called for it to be ended at a NSC meeting on Aug. 22.

Seoul announced the decision to forgo renewing the agreement on Aug. 22.

Cheong Wa Dae also denied Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun report that President Moon Jae-in’s chief of staff Noh Young-min and Kim Hyun-chong, deputy national security adviser, were behind the decision to end GSOMIA.

By Choi He-suk (