Japan summons South Korean ambassador over WWII labor row | News | DW | 19.07.2019

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Japan summons South Korean ambassador over WWII labor row

Japan's Foreign Ministry has summoned the South Korean ambassador amid a deepening diplomatic dispute over wartime compensation. Earlier, an elderly man set himself on fire in protest outside Japan's embassy in Seoul.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Friday issued a veiled threat towards South Korea as a bitter row over compensation for wartime forced labor continued to hurt ties.

As he met with Seoul's representative in Tokyo, Nam Gwan-pyo, Kono said what its neighbor was doing was "equivalent to subverting the post-World War Two international order."

Read more: South Korea demands international probe over Japanese sanctions claims

The two countries are at odds over a South Korean court decision last year ordering Japanese companies to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's occupation of the country from 1910 to 1945.

Japan has said that all compensation issues were settled under a 1965 bilateral treaty. Tokyo claims the fact that the South Korean government has not intervened in the court process represents a breach of the agreement. 

Kono on Friday remained adamant following his meeting with the South Korean ambassador, adding that Tokyo would now take unspecified "necessary measures."

South Korea, meanwhile, rejected Japan's call for third-party arbitration over the court ruling.

Seoul's foreign ministry insisted Tokyo should "make efforts to heal the pain and wounds" of the Korean victims for the dispute to be "truly resolved".

South Korea has accused Japan of weaponizing trade in response to the court rulings. Japan has tightened controls on sensitive high-tech exports to South Korea, a move that could affect South Korean manufacturers, including smartphone companies.

In response, Samsung Electronics has sent letters to partners urging them to stockpile more Japanese components in case Tokyo widens its curbs.

Meanwhile, an elderly man set himself alight in a car that was parked outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. Police said he later died in hospital. 

The 78-year-old man's father-in-law was believed to have been a victim of forced labor by Japanese firms during World War II.

Police and fire officials both declined to comment on his possible motives, citing the fact that investigations were ongoing.

rc/amp (Reuters, AP)

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