GWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA – A South Korean high court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to pay compensation to four Korean women who were forcibly conscripted as laborers during World War II, when Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula.
The Gwangju High Court told the Japanese company to pay three of them 120 million won (about ¥13.4 million) each and the other 100 million won in compensation.
The court in the southwestern city of Gwangju also ordered Mitsubishi Heavy to pay about 102 million won to a fifth plaintiff whose two deceased family members, both of them women, were forcibly conscripted into labor for the Japanese.
In the lower court ruling in November 2013, the company was ordered to pay four plaintiffs 150 million won each and the fifth one 80 million won.
The plaintiffs, including 84-year-old Yang Gum-dok, sought compensation for being forced to work at Mitsubishi Heavy’s factories in places such as Nagoya, central Japan from 1944 when they were aged 13 to 15.
They had earlier sued Mitsubishi Heavy and the Japanese government in a Japanese court. But the Supreme Court in Japan eventually threw out their case in 2008, saying the time limit for seeking personal compensation had expired.
In a landmark decision in May 2012 that reversed previous court decisions, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that the right of former forced workers and their families to seek withheld wages and compensation was not invalidated by the 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties, prompting the plaintiffs to seek damages in South Korea.
Japan maintains that all individual compensation claims were settled with that treaty, and Mitsubishi Heavy argued during the trial in South Korea that the plaintiffs’ claim should be rejected based on this idea.
The South Korean top court ruling resulted in a string of lower court rulings that ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation to those forced into labor for the Japanese. Wednesday’s ruling was the third such decision by a South Korean high court.