A senior Seoul official says Tokyo should approach disputes over forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule as ethical issues not legal matters.

The official from the South Korean Foreign Ministry made the remark in a meeting with reporters on Tuesday while discussing Japan’s fierce protest against the South Korean Supreme Court's recent decisions against Japanese companies involved in the war crimes. 

The official said there's hope that Japan will take a responsible approach in dealing with historical issues if it treats its relationship with South Korea importantly. 

The official said the issue cannot be solved solely by the law as Japan claims and that it is undesirable for Japan to turn a blind eye to the underlying fundamental issue. 

The official also expressed disappointment over media reports that Tokyo is planning to take action against the Supreme Court’s rulings, and urged Japan to realize the South Korean government will also take action, if necessary. 

In separate rulings in October and November, the Supreme Court ordered two Japanese firms, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to pay compensation to Korean victims, rejecting Japanese claims that the plaintiffs' right to recourse was nullified by the 1965 bilateral pact that settled colonial issues.  

Late last month, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono warned that Japan would take action against the rulings, including through the International Court of Justice, citing the need to protect what he called “legitimate” economic activities of Japanese companies.

[Photo : YONHAP News]