Majority in S. Korea Oppose Wartime Labor Solution

SEOUL — A survey by a South Korean television broadcaster showed Friday that 53.1% of respondents do not support Seoul’s plan to resolve the thorny issue of wartime labor with Tokyo.

Only 39.8% supported the plan announced Monday, according to the survey conducted by Korean Broadcasting System for two days from Tuesday.

Under the plan, devised by the South Korean government, an existing foundation would pay compensation on behalf of Japanese companies for wartime labor provided by requisitioned Koreans.

The survey also found that 46.1% believe the plan would benefit future-oriented South Korea-Japan relations, while 51.5% answered the opposite.

According to the survey, 72.5% of respondents think that the foundation should exercise its right to seek compensation from the Japanese companies, which are under court orders to pay damages to plaintiffs in the wartime labor lawsuits. The South Korean government says it does not expect the foundation to use the right.

Meanwhile, a poll by Gallup Korea, released Friday, found that the approval rate for South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol stood at 34%, down a mere 2 percentage points from a week before.

The public is not very pessimistic about the compensation plan, a senior official of the South Korean Foreign Ministry said Friday.

The public’s opposition to the plan has been limited because the wartime labor issue involves technical aspects more than the issue of so-called comfort women does, the official added.

The United States, for its part, has praised the compensation plan.

James Kim, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, told a meeting Wednesday with South Korean Minister of Economy and Finance Choo Kyung-ho that his organization will make a donation to the foundation to support the plan and encourage member companies to join the initiative.

The foundation is expected to cover the costs of compensation to be paid to plaintiffs with donations to be made by South Korean companies.

The Japanese government says it will not prevent Japanese companies from making donations to the foundation. If U.S. companies take part in the initiative, some Japanese businesses may follow.