Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. will comply if the South Korean Supreme Court upholds a ruling ordering it to pay 400 million won (about ¥35 million) to compensate four Koreans who were for forced to work for its predecessors during the war, company sources said Sunday.
The Seoul High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on July 10, marking in the first judgment by a South Korean court ordering a Japanese firm to pay in a case involving postwar reparations.
After appealing the ruling, however, NSSMC has apparently changed its mind.
“We, as a global company, can’t help but accept (the ruling),” one of the sources said, hinting that failure to comply might lead to seizure of the company’s assets in South Korea.
NSSMC, however, will not accept mediation before the Supreme Court’s decision, arguing that individuals lost the right to demand compensation under the 1965 treaty establishing diplomatic relations between the two nations. This is the stance of the Japanese government.
In the July ruling, the high court said the steel maker committed “crimes against humanity” by joining hands with the Japanese government to mobilize forced labor for the sake of pursuing a war of aggression and the “illegal” colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
The four plaintiffs said they were forced to work at a steel mill run Japan Iron & Steel Co., which later became Nippon Steel Corp.
“Our stance is that the issue of compensation rights between Japan and South Korea has been solved completely and finally” under the 1965 treaty, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
Nippon Steel merged with Sumitomo Metal Industries, Ltd. in 2012 to form Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.
In a similar move, the Busan High Court on July 30 ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to pay compensation of 80 million won each to five Koreans who were forced to work for MHI during Japan’s colonial rule.
Mitsubishi Heavy is planning to appeal the ruling to the top court and has no intention of reaching out-of-court settlement, company sources said.
“If we lose the lawsuit, we will confer with the foreign and industry ministries on how to deal with the issue,” one of the sources said.