South Korea said Monday that it held the first meeting of a public-private body it has set up to resolve the wartime labor issues during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, pledging to work toward a solution to the issue.

"The government will listen to opinions of those who were directly involved in the wartime forced labor issue and of various fields while making continuous efforts in seeking a reasonable solution" through the future meetings of the public-private body, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Experts and lawyers of South Korean plaintiffs who won compensation cases against Japanese companies will be requested to give their views on the issue in the meetings, the ministry said.

Last month, local media reported that the public-private body would be established to prevent the liquidation of assets of the two Japanese companies that the plaintiffs have seized. Japan has protested against the liquidation as Tokyo sees the issues as settled decades ago.

Lawyers representing South Korean plaintiffs speak to reporters in Seoul on July 4, 2022,  ahead of the meeting of a public-private body South Korea has set up to resolve wartime labor issues during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. (Kyodo)

The meeting of the public-private body was held as a first action by the government of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who took office on May 10 and has expressed a strong willingness to improve ties with Japan.

Some lawyers of the plaintiffs, who participated in the Monday meeting, said one or two more meetings could be held later this month, adding that it seems the ministry is trying to gather as many opinions as possible by August.

"We cannot yet tell whether this would yield fruit or not," one of the lawyers said in a briefing after the meeting.

South Korean Supreme Court rulings in 2018 ordered the Japanese companies -- Nippon Steel Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. -- to pay damages to Korean plaintiffs for their forced labor under Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.

The companies did not comply with the compensation orders as they heeded the Japanese government's position that all issues related to the colonial rule were settled "completely and finally" under an agreement signed by Japan and South Korea in 1965.

Relations between South Korea and Japan were frayed under the previous administration of President Moon Jae In over the wartime labor issue and that of Korean women forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.

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