Senior Japanese and South Korean diplomats discussed Monday a recent suggestion by Seoul to resolve the long-standing wartime labor issue, a Japanese official said.

Seo Min Jung, director general of the South Korean Foreign Ministry's Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, explained the plan to her Japanese counterpart Takehiro Funakoshi at their meeting in Tokyo, according to the official. The idea was suggested last week during a public hearing in Seoul held by the ministry.

Seo Min Jung, director general of the South Korean Foreign Ministry's Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, enters Japan's Foreign Ministry in Tokyo on Jan. 16, 2023. (Kyodo)

The Japanese government is expected to back the proposed solution so long as it can maintain its position on the issue of compensation, sources familiar with the bilateral ties said.

Japan maintains that all issues related its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, including the issue of compensation for requisitioned Korean workers, were settled "completely and finally" under a bilateral agreement signed in 1965.

But it remains uncertain whether the idea would be well-received by the public in South Korea. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol's administration is expected to make a final decision on the suggested solution by taking into account reactions from the public and the Japanese government, according to the sources.

Seoul said Thursday it was considering a proposal for a South Korean foundation to compensate lawsuit plaintiffs instead of two Japanese corporate defendants over alleged forced labor during Japan's colonial rule as the best possible option.

At the public hearing, the ministry faced a harsh backlash from supporters of the plaintiffs, who want Japan to pay the compensation and apologize again.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said later on Monday that Seo conveyed in her talks with Funakoshi the "atmosphere in South Korea, including the mood during the hearing.

Tokyo has been considering allowing Japanese firms to donate to the South Korean foundation as long as demands for money from the two defendants, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Nippon Steel Corp., are dropped, according to the sources.

On Friday, Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers agreed during their phone talks to continue close communication to restore healthy bilateral relations by resolving the dispute, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

Yoon took office in May with a pledge to improve relations with Japan and strengthen their defense cooperation amid North Korea's missile and nuclear threats.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Yoon vowed to work for an "early settlement" of the wartime labor issue when they met in November in Cambodia.

Tokyo-Seoul ties had reached their lowest point in years over the wartime labor issue and others during the tenure of Yoon's predecessor Moon Jae In.

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