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International relations

Japan seeks arbitration with South Korea over wartime labor issue

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government said Monday it is seeking arbitration in a dispute with South Korea over the issue of compensation for laborers made to work during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula through the end of World War II.

The Foreign Ministry said it has requested the establishment of an arbitration panel involving members from a third country as provided for under a 1965 bilateral accord, as Seoul has remained unresponsive to Tokyo's offers to seek a diplomatic solution.

The neighboring countries have been clashing over the issue since October last year, when South Korea's top court ordered a Japanese steelmaker to remunerate Korean laborers for forced work. Since then, a number of similar rulings have been handed down to other Japanese companies.

While the companies have refused to comply based on Tokyo's argument that the issue of compensation was resolved "finally and completely" under the accord, lawyers for the Korean laborers have been seeking to liquidate the firms' assets.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement it has repeatedly asked South Korea since January to open up diplomatic talks on the issue to no avail.

The ministry said it "strongly urges" South Korea to comply with the establishment of the panel, though it remains to be seen how Seoul will respond.

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