A South Korean government-backed foundation said Friday it paid compensation to one of the three surviving Korean plaintiffs who won lawsuits over wartime forced labor during Japan's colonial rule.
The Foundation for Victims of Forced Mobilization by Imperial Japan, which has been paying damages to other plaintiffs instead of two Japanese companies that were sued, said the person was the first plaintiff who is still alive and agreed to accept compensation by the organization.
The amount of the payment has not been made public, but it is believed to be between 200 million won ($150,800) and 290 million won, based on South Korea's Supreme Court's rulings on the compensation and delay damages.
The Foreign Ministry on Thursday said the survivor, whose identity has not been revealed, has agreed to receive the compensation.
After President Yoon Suk Yeol's government in March announced the compensation plan, which involves donations from South Korean companies, to settle the wartime dispute and improve ties with Japan, the government and the foundation met backlash from the public as the plaintiffs were seeking damages from the Japanese firms.
The two Japanese firms -- Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Nippon Steel Corp. -- were ordered in separate rulings by the 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.
But the ministry said in April that 10 family members of wartime laborers out of the 15 plaintiffs who won the lawsuits have agreed and received compensation from the foundation.
The ministry's spokesman Lim Soo Suk said Thursday that the government hopes the psychological wounds of the victims and the bereaved could be healed even by little by the compensation, adding it will continue to persuade those who are refusing to accept damages, including the two other survivors, to do similarly.
The two countries' relationship reached one of their lowest points after the top court rulings. But Seoul and Tokyo have been actively improving their ties under Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, including through the resumption of reciprocal visits by the leaders.
When Kishida visited Seoul earlier in May, he referred to the wartime labor issue at a joint press conference with Yoon, saying his "heart aches" as many people have not forgotten the painful memories of the past, though they look to the future.
1st South Korean wartime labor survivor to accept damages from fund