Friday, 16 November, 2018

South Korean court orders Japanese firm to compensate WWII slaves

South Korean court orders Japanese firm to compensate WWII slaves S Korean Supreme Court orders Nippon Steel to compensate wartime forced laborers
Glenn Montgomery | 01 November, 2018, 17:11

Responding to Tuesday's verdict, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said that the compensation order was "unthinkable". Kono said Tokyo will weigh "every option", including taking the matter to an worldwide court unless appropriate action is taken by Korea immediately.

"Above all, the decision completely overthrows the legal foundation of the friendly and cooperative relationship that Japan and the Republic of Korea have developed since the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1965", he said.

Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal called the ruling "deeply regrettable" and said it will "carefully review" the court's decision in considering its next steps, taking into account "the Japanese government's responses on this matter and other factors".

Lee said he felt "sorry for the pain victims of forced labor had to go through" and said local authorities would try to "heal their wounds".

"The government hopes to improve South Korea-Japan bilateral relations in a future-oriented manner", it added.

The Supreme Court, attended by all 13 judges, ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.to pay 100 million won (87,740 US dollars) per plaintiff in compensation. The plaintiffs claimed they went to Japan between 1941 and 1943 after recruiters from the company's forerunner, Japan Iron & Steel, promised satisfactory food, wages, technical training and job stability. They've been working on this for 70 years.

Lee Choon-shik (C), a victim of forced labour by Japan during its colonial rule of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945, is surrounded by supporters and relatives outside the supreme court in Seoul on October 30, 2018.

But in 2012, South Korea's Supreme Court ruled that the company should compensate the plaintiffs. They lost the trial.

In Tuesday's ruling, the top court retained these adjudications.

But Seoul has argued the deal does not cover all issues, including Japan's wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women.

The treaty that led to the establishment of diplomatic ties, the courts said, relinquished reparations for individuals in return for a lump-sum settlement with Japan.

"What is happening right now is unthinkable in terms of global common sense and in a country that upholds the rule of law", Kono said.

The ruling Tuesday overturned a Japanese court's decision on the same case in 2003.

Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal appealed shortly afterwards.

Tuesday's ruling eliminated the "room for diplomacy" and Japan could take the case to worldwide arbitration, though South Korea is not a member of the global Court of Justice, said Jin Chang-soo, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute think tank south of Seoul.

Korean workers at a coal mine in Japan who were forced to do labor during World War II.

In December 2017, during the 4th edition of the cup in China's Kunming, tensions between the two sides were at their peak and United States President Donald Trump threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea after its latest ballistic missile test.

The day's ruling said the Supreme Court does not think the right to seek compensation for those who were forced to work was affected by the 1965 pact.

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