Steel maker to pay if Korean ruling upheld

NSSMC fears asset seizure if it fails to comply in war labor case


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.

  • Murasaki

    Great, if Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. pay it will open the flood gates for all koreans and chinese to start rubbish. This is stupid. A korean court has no rulings in Japan, tell the koreans to take a long walk on a short jetty.

  • shinjukuboy

    35 million yen? That would have been worth a lot in 1945, but that is nothing now for a company of that size. The company probably makes that much in 10 minutes (OK, I exaggerate a little, but you know what I mean). The S. Korean court may also have been trying to send a message to potential plaintiffs: “Try, but you’ll get next to nothing”. Maybe the S. Korean court understands the meaning of a treaty after all.

  • Boganis

    It seems I keep asking this question repeatedly, how long does a nation have to keep apologizing before it is forgiven for crimes perpetrated by its forefathers? This is yet another case where the period of asking for reparations has long expired and the parties that committed the crimes no longer exist to share the shame or financial loss associated with any wins in this case.

  • Gene Sasserky

    Japan needs to stop being so, what do they call it? Ohitoyoshi? Take South Korea to the ICJ for violation and bad faith of the 1965 Treaty. Oh at the same time take the to court for the illegal occupation of Takeshima.

  • Denny Pollard

    It is very obvious South Korea does not stand by the 1965 treaty they agreed to
    with Japan. This under minds every treaty any country has signed with South Korea and sets a very bad precedent. Holding an individual company responsible for something a government caused and made is out of line. The Korean armistice (treaty) was signed on July 27, 1953, and was designed to “insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved. So this treaty is in question as well. North Korea has announced that it will no longer abide by the armistice (treaty) so the two Korea’s are really the same after all neither one can be trusted. The 1965 treaty supersedes any Korean court decision and the Korean government should
    step in and stop this non-sense, but the Korean government has encouraged it to
    try and get around the 1965 treaty. Seems like it is all about money now, where is the Korean honor. The company should not pay this and default to the 1965 treaty and force Korea to abide by the treaty.

  • Whirled Peas

    In this case, South Korea should cough up the money and pay these formerly conscripted laborers. Japan already gave the SK government money back in 1965, earmarked to compensate individuals conscripted into Japan’s military and industry. The SK government mis-used this money and instead paid for things like roads and bridges. It also failed to tell its own citizens that there was money available for these kinds of matters. It was only in 2005 that the SK citizens found out Japan had in fact paid reparations, but when victims started applying for compensation to the SK government, it quickly told the people “Oh, all compensation issues have been resolved.” What they should have said was, “Oops my bad. We spent all the money already!” Then the SK government should have immediately replaced the money they mis-spent and compensated those who filed a legitimate claim. Japan’s mistake was giving the money to SK and allowing them to handle the claims. Had Japan handled them, people like these workers would have been compensated 40 years ago!