July 20 (UPI) — The son of a former South Korean president says his organization has reached an agreement with the North Korean government to repatriate the remains of Koreans forced into labor during Japanese rule.
Kim Hong-gul, the third son of former President Kim Dae-jung, who met with Kim Jong Il in 2000, said members of North Korea’s Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly agreed to jointly pursue the repatriation of the laborers’ remains, NHK reported Thursday.
Kim is chairman of the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation. On Thursday, he was returning from a four-day trip to North Korea that began Monday, Yonhap reported.
Kim confirmed the agreement with the North Koreans as he transferred flights at Beijing Capital International Airport, according to NHK.
The South Korean civic organizer said he met with the vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly. The two sides discussed ways to repatriate the victims’ remains and signed an agreement, the report says.
Kim said working-level talks would begin in August.
Millions of Koreans were forced to work in harsh conditions under wartime Japanese rule, according to Yonhap.
Pro-Pyongyang groups, including the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, could get involved, the South Korean civic organizer said.
The issue of Korean forced laborers has been addressed in popular South Korean films like Battleship Island, released in 2017.
The film earned more than $47 million at the South Korean box office and is based on the true story of Korean workers who worked in dangerous conditions on Japan’s Hashima Island.
The island was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015.
Friction also remains between South Korea and Japan over territorial issues.
A new teacher’s guide issued in Japan is causing controversy, because the material states a disputed South Korea-administered island belongs to Japan.