National

Seoul court orders Japan steelmaker to pay redress to wartime forced laborer

Kyodo

A South Korean court has ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to pay 100 million won (about ¥8.9 million) in reparations to the family of a South Korean man forced to work for one of its predecessor companies during wartime.

The amount of damages awarded by the Seoul Central District Court is identical to that awarded to seven other plaintiffs in a similar lawsuit resolved last November.

The eighth plaintiff, who was part of the original lawsuit filed in March 2013 seeking 100 million won in compensation for each of them, sued the company separately for procedural reasons.

The company, which is appealing the previous ruling, indicated it will do likewise with regard to the latest one.

The court said the company is obliged to compensate the plaintiff, who died in 2012, for hardships and lost opportunities he suffered after being conscripted into forced labor at a steel mill of its predecessor, Nippon Steel Corp., in what is now Kitakyushu, during World War II.

In July 2013, the Seoul High Court ruled against the Japanese firm in a similar case and ordered it to pay 100 million won each of four plaintiffs.

Similar rulings have been made against other Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp., in the wake of the South Korean Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling that a 1965 treaty with Japan that settled postwar compensation claims cannot stop individuals from seeking compensation from Japan.

Japan’s Supreme Court in 2011 dismissed a lawsuit filed by South Koreans who were conscripted into forced labor on grounds that individuals lost the right to demand compensation under the 1965 treaty, under which Japan and South Korea normalized their relations.

The South Korean rulings have been delivered amid strained relations between South Korea and Japan over a territorial dispute and different interpretations of wartime history.

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