The South Korean National Assembly speaker proposed raising donations in Japan and South Korea as a way to address the issue of wartime workers demanding compensation from Japanese companies.
In a speech at Waseda University in Tokyo on November 5, Moon hee-sang He said he is considering sending a bill to the National Assembly to set up a new compensation fund, underscoring the need for Korean lawmakers to make efforts to resolve the issue.
Relations between Tokyo and Seoul were severely affected after the South Korean Supreme Court issued a series of rulings in October last year, ordering Japanese companies to compensate Korean wartime workers.
Tokyo maintains that all South Korean war compensation claims were resolved by the bilateral 1965 treaty that re-established diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Moon said the bill should be designed to address other difficult problems arising from the shared past of the two countries. He noted that the issue of “women of comfort”, women who were forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers, remains unresolved as regards their country.
"Legislation should aim to address these outstanding issues comprehensively," said Moon.
The speaker said it would be difficult to secure sufficient financial resources to compensate the victims based solely on the South Korean government's request for only Japanese and South Korean companies that used Korean wartime workers to intervene.
Moon said his proposal also aims to attract Japanese and South Korean companies without war associations, as well as the general public, so they can "donate voluntarily" for a new effort.
Moon said about 560 million yen ($ 5,18 million) remaining from the extinct foundation established in South Korea to help former comfort women could be used for this purpose.
The foundation was created after a landmark agreement between Tokyo and Seoul in December of 2015 to solve the problem of women's comfort once and for all.
The issue of women's comfort has been a source of bitterness between the two countries.
The 2015 deal was severely criticized by the victims and the South Korean public for being hastily drafted without sufficient involvement of the parties involved.
The unpopular foundation was dropped by the government of President Moon Jae-in.
"I hope that the effort (enacting legislation for the new fund) will lead us to open the door to reconciliation and cooperation," said the speaker, expressing his hope that Japan will support the initiative.