Supreme Court again rules in favor of Korean victims of Japan’s forced labor

Bomi Yoon

The building of the Supreme Court is seen in this file photo, Oct. 16. Korea Times photo by Choi Joo-yeon

The building of the Supreme Court is seen in this file photo, Oct. 16. Korea Times photo by Choi Joo-yeon

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld two appellate court rulings that ordered Japanese companies to compensate Koreans forced into wartime labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule.

The top court handed down the decisions on two damages suits filed against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel between 2013 and 2014. The Supreme Court previously confirmed similar compensation orders for the two Japanese companies in 2018 in response to lawsuits launched in 2012.

In one of the latest two rulings approved by the Supreme Court, Mitsubishi was ordered to pay 100 million-150 million won ($76,763-115,163) to each of three forced labor victims and a victim’s family member to compensate for their unpaid work. The victims, who were reportedly forced to enlist in the Korean Women’s Volunteer Labor Corps and toil at an aircraft plant in Nagoya in 1944, started the litigation in February 2014.

Another appellate court ruling upheld by the top court ordered Nippon Steel to pay compensation of 100 million won each to seven Koreans, who were reportedly victimized by wartime forced labor and unpaid work from 1942 to 1945. The seven launched their suits in March 2013 but all of them have since died.

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Ruling in favor of forced labor victims in 2018, the Supreme Court said the 1965 treaty signed between Korea and Japan to settle colonial-era issues does not terminate individuals’ rights to claim damages. Japan claims all reparation issues were settled in the 1965 treaty that normalized the bilateral diplomatic ties.

The Japanese companies have not accepted the Korean court rulings and the Korean victims and their lawyers have sought to seize assets of the Japanese defendants. Separate lawsuits to seize the Japanese firms’ local assets are now pending in the Supreme Court.

The incumbent Seoul government seeking to improve relations with Tokyo announced a plan early this year to compensate the victims through a public foundation supported by donations from Korean businesses, without direct involvement of Japanese firms. But some of the victims have refused to comply with the government proposal. (Yonhap)

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