• Kyodo

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A South Korean court on Wednesday ordered a Japanese company to compensate a group of Korean women forced to work at the machinery maker in Japan during World War II.

The Seoul Central District Court ruled that Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp. must pay five victims 100 million won (about ¥9.4 million) each for being forced to perform hard labor at the firm’s munitions factory in Toyama.

The plaintiffs filed a lawsuit with the court in April last year. They were brought to Japan from the Korean Peninsula, then under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, under false pretenses and forced to work there without sufficient food.

The court acknowledged the suffering of the victims and said they have not lost their right to demand compensation under a 1965 Korea-Japan agreement that Japan claims settled all issues of individual compensation to victims of forced labor during that time.

Nachi-Fujikoshi is among some Japanese companies accused of recruiting several thousand Korean women, including some in their teens, to work at factories in Japan during the war.

In October last year, the same court ordered Nachi-Fujikoshi to compensate a separate group of Korean women. In this ruling, the court said the victims worked long hours in harsh conditions, and received neither proper wages nor nourishment.

In a landmark decision in May 2012, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that the right of former forced laborers and their families to seek withheld wages and compensation was not invalidated by the 1965 treaty, under which Japan and South Korea normalized ties.

The top court then returned to lower courts cases involving Koreans forcibly taken to Japan to work in Japanese factories, and also prompted the district and high courts to rule in favor of plaintiffs seeking compensation from their former employers.

But there have since been three pending cases at the Supreme Court based on an appeal by Japanese companies that lost in lower court rulings.

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