A private foundation aimed at supporting Asian victims forced into labor during Japan’s colonial rule of Korea will be launched as early as this year amid frayed relations between Seoul and Tokyo.
“It is against social justice to neglect forced labor victims who unfairly suffered,” Son Bong-ho, who heads the preparatory committee for the foundation, said at a press conference in central Seoul on Wednesday.
Tentatively named the “Asia Peace Future Foundation,” the organization is seeking funding from citizens from all around the world to support Asian victims of forced labor, build monuments in their memory and facilitate citizen-to-citizen solidarity to promote peace in Asia, the committee said.
“Under the situation where the Japanese government is not making proper compensation, I hope citizens take interest, albeit a little, and help them,” Son said.
Headed by Son, emeritus professor at Seoul National University and president of Food for the Hungry, the private organization has so far gathered 121 people of various backgrounds ranging from academia to businesses.
The foundation also demanded a sincere apology and compensation for the victims, citing the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future, a German organization set up to compensate former forced laborers.
The foundation has no links to the government’s diplomatic efforts.
After gathering more people to join the foundation and funding, the foundation will officially be registered and launched as early as the end of this year or early next year.
Bilateral relations have been chilly in recent months after rulings by Korea’s Supreme Court last year that ordered Japanese companies to compensate Koreans forced into labor. Tokyo says the matter was settled by the 1965 treaty normalizing bilateral ties.
In an apparent act of retaliation, Japan tightened restrictions on exports to Korea, which led Koreans to join a boycott of Japanese goods and services. Korea also withdrew from a bilateral military information-sharing deal.