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Gyeonggi presents controversial school bill

The Gyeonggi Province Assembly will discuss a bill this month that will oblige the management of schools to put “war criminal tags” on products manufactured by Japanese firms such as Nikon, Panasonic, Mitsubishi and Yamaha.

If the assembly gives this the green light during its next session, which will start on March 26, schools in Gyeonggi Province must put the controversial tags on made-in-Japan products whose prices are higher than 200,000 won ($180).

Mostly digital products would be subject to the measure. In Gyeonggi schools, 70 percent of camcorders, 56 percent of cameras and 47 percent of beam projectors are Japanese products.

Rep. Hwang Dae-ho of the governing Democratic Party of Korea, who presented the bill, said that the move was not about boycotting Japanese products.

We are trying to let our students know what some Japanese companies did in the past. Worse, they have not apologized for what they did to Koreans as you know,” the first-term lawmaker told The Korea News Plus.

I am not trying to worsen the relationship between Korea and Japan. The opposite is the truth. If they sincerely apologize and compensate victims, the two nations’ ties will get better.”

If the bill wins a majority vote among 142 parliamentary members, it will be executed after confirming the precise list of Japanese firms.

Hwang said that he checked the Korean government’s investigations into war criminal enterprises announced a few years ago. Back then, 299 were on the list including the companies mentioned above.

As I told you, this is not a consumer boycott. But if Japanese companies continue not to apologize and public sentiment gets worse, we may take other steps,” Hwang said.

I don’t know why Japanese companies at issue do not ask for forgiveness. I hope that they would benchmark their German counterparts, which have sincerely admitted their wartime misdeeds.”

Seoul city comes up with similar bill

Due to Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea (1910-45), relations between the two countries have often been tense.

Recently, Korea’s top court upheld a verdict that ordered Japanese firms to compensate Korean victims of forced labor during colonial rule. But they refused to do so.

In a related move, the Seoul city government has also come up with a bill restricting the capital from signing non-competitive contracts with Japan’s so-called war criminal corporations. It is expected to go through votes soon.