What Happened: Moon Hee-sang, the speaker of South Korea's National Assembly, has drafted a bill that would use voluntary contributions made by Japanese and South Korean companies and individuals to create a compensation fund to settle claims of forced labor during Japan's wartime occupation, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported Nov. 27. The fund, which would total 300 million won ($255 million), would reportedly include $5.1 million in contributions made by the Japanese government to a now-defunct foundation that had been intended to pay claims to South Korean women victimized by Japan's wartime system of sexual slavery.
Why It Matters: If it becomes law, the bill would be a notable sign that Japan and South Korea could move to end a monthslong dispute that has resulted in drastic trade restrictions. However, the Japanese government would still have to agree to accept the measure; Tokyo reportedly rejected a similar proposal in June. It is also unclear whether South Korean claimants would accept the solution, as it would not hold Japanese companies directly accountable.
Background: South Korea and Japan have been involved in an escalating trade dispute since July, when Tokyo imposed restrictions on exports to South Korea in apparent retaliation against Seoul's push to extract wartime compensation. A small sign of movement in the impasse came last week when South Korea said it would back off plans to scrap a bilateral intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.
- Japan and South Korea Brace for a Prolonged Trade Battle (Nov. 25, 2019)
- South Korea and Japan Cool Their Trade Spat in the Name of Security (Nov. 22, 2019)
- Seoul and Tokyo Stare Each Other Down (July 18, 2019)