A Japanese machine-toolmaker has reached a settlement with three South Koreans who served as forced laborers during World War II based on recommendations handed down by the Supreme Court, company sources said Tuesday.
Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp., based in Toyama on the Sea of Japan coast, reached a compromise Tuesday with the three plaintiffs at the top court in Tokyo to settle a lawsuit filed by the South Koreans in September 1992, the sources said.
The plaintiffs are two women — Lee Jong Suk, 68, and Choi Bong Nyon, 69 — and one man, Ko Dok Hwan, 77.
It is the first time that a compromise of this kind has been made at the Supreme Court. It is the third such settlement, following a compromise between Japan Steel Corp. and former Korean workers recruited during World War II.
About 60 lawsuits seeking compensation payments for forced labor during the war are being heard throughout the country.
The three Koreans testified that they were forced into hard labor at the company’s munitions factory in Toyama during the closing days of World War II after being recruited between 1943 and 1944 from the Korean Peninsula, then under Japanese colonial rule.
Kensuke Imura, president of Nachi-Fujikoshi, said at a news conference in Toyama that the company will pay the Koreans “settlement money,” but he did not specify the amount. The plaintiffs had sought a total of 20 million yen in damages, 5,200 yen in unpaid wages and a public apology.
Imura also said the company still believes the Koreans’ claims that they were not paid for their years of labor is untrue.
“Our position — that there is no such fact their wages were not paid — hasn’t changed,” he said. “However, we have decided (to pay them) so we can get past this unhappy event of the 20th century and can positively enter a new era.”
Asked whether the company plans to offer the plaintiffs an apology, Imura said, “There will be no apology. We never forced them to come to Japan.”
He also said, “It is wrong to apply modern sensibilities when discussing wartime events.”
The plaintiffs said that during the war they were told they would be able to earn decent wages at the company and also attend school, but the company never allowed them to study and sent them home without pay shortly before Japan surrendered in August 1945.
In December 1998, the Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch upheld a lower court rejection of a demand by the Koreans that Nachi-Fujikoshi pay them for damages and unpaid wages.
The high court dismissed the plaintiffs’ appeal, upholding the Toyama District Court’s ruling in July 1996 that turned down their demand by citing the statute of limitations.
Nachi-Fujikoshi, established in 1928, is listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
According to the company, it had approximately 1,500 Korean workers, mostly girls and women, immediately before the end of the war.