Japan summons South Korean ambassador over WWII labor row

South Korea accused Japan of violating worldwide law with its curbs this month on the export of high-tech materials to South Korean chipmaking giants, which could disrupt global supply chains.

Taro Kono urged Seoul to "immediately take corrective measures" after South Korea's high court ordered Japanese firms that used forced labour to compensate victims.

"What the South Korean government is doing now is equivalent to subverting the post-World War Two worldwide order", Kono said.

The issue was thrust to centre stage past year when a South Korean court ordered two Japanese firms - Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries - to pay compensation to Koreans forced to work for them.

Japan's official position regarding its former colony maintain that a 1965 agreement resolved the issue of damages.

Police say a 78-year-old South Korean man who set himself ablaze near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul has died.

Kim's family told investigators that his father-in-law had been conscripted as a forced laborer when the Korean Peninsula was under Japan's colonial rule from 1910-45, according to a police statement. "It is extremely impertinent to propose it again by pretending to not know that".

Seoul's defense ministry said Friday that Seoul's current stance is to keep the GSOMIA, and that it is looking at the pact from the standpoint of "its utility and security cooperation" with Tokyo.

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The two sides' intelligence cooperation has been mutually complementary, as Seoul has North Korea-related intelligence based on various sources, allegedly including its clandestine operatives based inside the communist state, while Tokyo boasted of its military satellites and other high-tech equipment.

Japan has said it implemented the export curbs over South Korea's "deficiencies" in its export control systems and not in reaction to the labourers' dispute, but South Korea has called the restrictions "unjust economic retaliation".

The 78-year-old man, surnamed Kim, drove up to the building around 3:20 a.m. (1820 GMT Thursday), stopped in front of the gate and set fire to the vehicle while sitting in it, an official at Seoul's Jongno Fire Station said.

The move triggered anger in Seoul, but also raised worldwide concern about the effect on the global tech supply chain and the possibility of price hikes for consumers.

The NSO deputy director told reporters that although South Korea sought to resolve the forced labor issue through diplomatic channels with Japan and the dialogue efforts had yet to be concluded, Japan unilaterally slapped export restrictions on South Korea.

Japan has requested a three-nation panel to discuss the issue, following the court decision ordering Japanese companies to compensate victims of forced labour.

South Korea's presidential Blue House said Friday that not South Korea, but Japan violated worldwide law regarding the forced labor of Korean people before and during World War II.

  • Sonia Alvarado