One of the three surviving Korean plaintiffs who won lawsuits over wartime forced labor during Japan's colonial rule agreed to accept compensation by a South Korean government-backed foundation, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
Survivors have been seeking an apology and compensation from the Japanese government but until now, none had accepted payment from the foundation.
Announced in March by Seoul to settle the wartime labor dispute and help improve ties with Japan, the foundation has seen backlash from the South Korean public.
Two Japanese firms -- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Nippon Steel Corp. -- were ordered in separate rulings by South Korea's Supreme Court in 2018 to pay damages to former Korean laborers and their relatives over forced labor during World War II.
Japan has maintained that all issues stemming from the 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula were settled "completely and finally" under a bilateral agreement in 1965.
The survivor will receive the damages on Friday, the ministry said. The individual decided to accept the payment after consulting with family members, a source familiar with the matter said.
Besides the one survivor, 10 family members of wartime laborers out of the 15 plaintiffs who won lawsuits have agreed and received compensation from the foundation, which is supported by donations from South Korean companies.
The ministry is seeking to persuade those who are refusing or have not yet accepted, including the two other survivors, to do similarly.
The two countries' relationship reached one of their lowest points after the 2018 top court ruling. But Seoul and Tokyo have been actively improving their ties under South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, including through the resumption of reciprocal visits by their leaders.
Kishida who visited Seoul in May referred to the wartime labor issue at a joint press conference with Yoon, saying that his heart "aches" as many people have not forgotten the painful memories of the past.