The Tokyo High Court, upholding a lower court ruling, rejected on Tuesday a damages suit over unpaid wages filed by relatives of seven Koreans who were forced to work at a steel mill in Iwate Prefecture during the war.

The plaintiffs had demanded the government pay 20 million yen for each of the seven as back wages for their labor at the mill, owned by Japan Iron & Steel Co., now Nippon Steel Corp., in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture.

The seven were brought to Japan between 1942 and 1944 and forced to work at the mill, according to the ruling. All had died by 1945 in Allied bombings or from other causes.

The relatives filed the lawsuit after the Morioka bureau of the Justice Ministry rejected their demand to pay them unpaid wages deposited at the bureau.

The bureau said the 1965 Japan-South Korea agreement that normalized diplomatic bilateral ties nullified property claims by Koreans who were forced to work in Japan during the war.

The high court said it was not the fault of the government that the bureau did not inform the relatives that the unpaid wages were on deposit with the bureau shortly after the war.

It was not certain that notification letters would have reached the relatives even if the government had sent them, due to poor systems of communication shortly after the war, presiding Judge Toshiaki Harada said.

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