High court, too, dismisses suit by Korean forced laborers

Kyodo

The Nagoya High Court on Thursday upheld a lower court decision that dismissed claims by seven South Korean plaintiffs who sought compensation for the labor they were forced to perform at a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. munitions factory in Nagoya during the war.

Presiding Judge Kunio Aoyama said the plaintiffs’ individual rights to seek damages had lapsed under the 1965 agreement on wartime damages claims between Japan and South Korea, although the court acknowledged the state’s illegal involvement in the case.

“People were abducted under the threat of bodily harm and forced to work for no wages and had restrictions put on their whereabouts, all under the state’s initiative,” Aoyama said.

The ruling comes after the dismissal of a series of similar lawsuits that followed the Supreme Court’s first judgment denying the legal right of Chinese citizens to demand war reparations from Japan. The top court’s ruling in late April cited the Chinese government’s abandonment of compensation rights under a postwar agreement with Japan.

In the Nagoya case, the plaintiffs — six women and the relative of another laborer who has died — had sought 240 million yen in compensation and an apology from the government and the company.

During the trial, they argued that South Korea only gave up its right to protect its people as a state under the agreement, and that the individuals’ right to seek compensation was not diminished.