OSAKA — The Osaka High Court dismissed an appeal Tuesday filed by 12 Korean families facing eviction from the wartime forced laborers’ squatter community of Utoro in the city of Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, upholding a lower court ruling.
The Kyoto District Court has issued rulings since January ordering four of five groups comprising the 68 Korean households being sued to vacate the property.
The high court delivered Tuesday’s ruling on the first two groups, accounting for 12 families who had appealed the district court decisions.
According to the initial rulings, about 80 Korean households have been living in the 2-hectare Utoro district since before the war. The first generation of residents were brought there as forced laborers to level a hill for construction of military airfields.
In 1989, Nishinihon Shokusan, an Osaka-based real estate company that owns the land, filed lawsuits with the Kyoto District Court to have the 68 Korean families evicted.
Although the district court proposed a compromise plan to sell the land to the residents, the defendants and the plaintiffs failed to agree. The residents have insisted they be granted ownership of the land due to “prescriptive rights” of having lived at the site for more than 50 years.
The Kyoto District Court ordered 37 families, accounting for four groups, to move out of the area, claiming the residents have never shown any intention to purchase the land and the property has never been registered legally.
In the appeal, the families claimed the eviction infringes on their rights as residents and said the real estate firm’s purchase of the land is invalid.
Akio Genmoto, one of the defendants, said he was incensed by the ruling. “Japanese society forcibly brought Koreans to Japan and is now trying to deprive us of our land,” he said. “I think it is difficult to get a fair judgment in our situation. So we’ve got to promote a public movement so we can stay on the land that our ancestors maintained.”
During the war, the government ordered a corporation that had owned the land to build airfields. After the war, the firm became a subsidiary of the Nissan Motor Co. group, changing its name to Nissan Shatai Co.
In 1987, the company sold the property to a district resident who promised to sell it to other dwellers. But the buyer sold the land to Nishinihon Shokusan and disappeared the same year.
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