Photo/Illutration South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol delivers a speech during a news conference to mark his first 100 days in office at the presidential office in Seoul on Aug. 17. (Pool photo via AP)

SEOUL--South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on Aug. 17 pledged to find an equitable solution to the thorny issue of compensation for wartime Korean laborers that will be agreeable to all parties, including Japan. 

“I am giving good consideration to an idea that will not infringe on Japan’s sovereignty, something that the country is concerned about, and that will allow the creditors (plaintiffs) to receive damages," Yoon said at a news conference held at the presidential office on the 100th day since becoming president. "I will obtain (such a solution) reasonably.”

In 2018, the South Korean Supreme Court ordered Japanese companies for which Korean laborers worked during wartime to pay damages to the plaintiffs.

The procedures to sell the seized assets of these Japanese companies to pay the damages could be completed soon, leading to a concern that the relationship between the two countries could further deteriorate.

On the issue of the wartime Korean laborers, Yoon said at the news conference, “When the two countries strengthen their future-oriented and cooperative relationship, they will be able to solve the issue amicably through concessions and understanding.”

He also referred to the recent security environment becoming even more strained and the need to cooperate on economic issues, saying, “(Japan and South Korea) need close cooperation for the future.”

Yoon said that the two countries “will be able to obtain a reasonable idea” to resolve the issue of the Korean wartime laborers and other matters.

The South Korean president described the current state of the relationship between the two countries as “the worst ever."

He referred to the Japan and South Korea Partnership Declaration that Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung struck in 1998 to pledge future cooperation between their nations.

Yoon said that he will inherit the declaration and quickly restore the South Korea-Japan relationship to its former state.