South Koreans sue MHI over war labor

Kyodo

Another group of South Korean women who were forcibly conscripted as laborers to work in the wartime munitions factory in Nagoya run by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. filed a lawsuit against the company Thursday, seeking compensation of 150 million won (about $140,000) per person.

The lawsuit was filed in the Gwangju District Court, in the southern city of the same name, by three former labor conscripts and relatives of one who died during an earthquake in 1944.

It comes after the same court last November ruled in favor of four Korean women who were similarly forcibly conscripted to work at the same plant and ordered Mitsubishi Heavy to pay them 150 million won each in compensation, and to pay 80 million won to kin of two other such women who are now deceased.

The amount of compensation ordered for the four living victims of forced labor was a record high.

There has been a spate of such lawsuits since May 2012, when the South Korean Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, reversed previous lower court decisions and ruled that the right of former forced workers and their families to seek withheld wages and compensation was not invalidated by a 1965 treaty with Japan under which the two countries normalized bilateral ties.

The Japanese government maintains that all individual compensation claims were settled with that treaty.

In two separate rulings last July, South Korean courts ordered Mitsubishi Heavy and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to compensate South Korean men who were taken into forced labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

On July 10, the Seoul High Court ruled in favor of four plaintiffs, ordering Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal to pay a total of 400 million won. The Busan High Court on July 30 ordered Mitsubishi Heavy to pay the same amount in compensation to five South Koreans.

Amid Japan’s increasingly frayed ties with its neighbors over territorial disputes and perceptions of history, the trend of civil litigation against Japanese firms for wartime forced labor in Japan has now spread to China.