Korean forced laborers lose redress appeal

KANAZAWA, Ishikawa Pref. (Kyodo) An appeals court rejected a demand Monday that the government and a machinery maker pay compensation to Korean women coerced into working at a military plant in Japan during the war.

The Kanazawa branch of the Nagoya High Court turned down an appeal by 23 South Korean former forced laborers and their relatives who demanded about ¥100 million in compensation from the state and Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp. based in Toyama.

Presiding Judge Nobuaki Watanabe said the plaintiffs lost their right to demand compensation under the 1965 compensation rights treaty between Japan and South Korea.

Under the treaty, the nations agreed that South Korean residents of Japan who were brought to Japan as wartime laborers were not qualified to claim individual compensation. Japan instead paid a lump sum of $500 million to South Korea as a form of economic cooperation.

The plaintiffs said an internal Foreign Ministry document found in 2008 suggests the treaty only provides for the South Korean government renouncing compensation claims.

But the appeals court dismissed the argument.

The high court upheld a September 2007 decision by the Toyama District Court that rejected demands for redress.

The lower court recognized in its ruling that the government brought women from the Korean Peninsula to Japan under false pretenses and forced them to work at a military plant during the war, but dismissed the South Korean plaintiffs’ damages claim.

The plaintiffs were taken to Japan from the Korean Peninsula from 1944 to 1945 after being misled by Japanese teachers and others who told them they would receive higher education or earn generous wages in Japan, the lower court said.

The plaintiffs were in fact coerced into performing hard labor, including grinding bearings, and were not provided with sufficient food or any wages, the court said.