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South Korean court again orders Mitsubishi Heavy to compensate former forced laborers

Kyodo

A South Korean court has for the second time in a week ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to compensate Korean victims of Japan’s wartime forced labor.

Friday’s ruling compels the major maker of heavy machinery to pay four victims a total of 470 million won (about ¥45 million).

The Gwangju District Court ordered the firm to pay 150 million won to Oh Cheol-seok, a younger brother of late victim Oh Kil-se; 120 million won to 87-year-old victim Kim Jae-rim; and 100 million won each to victims Yang Young-soo, 86, and Shim Sun-ae, 87, Yonhap news agency reported.

“Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ mobilization of the plaintiffs for forced labor to produce war supplies is an inhumane and illegal act,” the court said. “As it is clear that the plaintiffs suffered severe psychological pain from this act, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has a responsibility to compensate for this.”

On Tuesday, the same court found MHI liable for damages in a similar ruling, directing it to pay 85-year-old Kim Yong-ok and a family member of the late Choi Jong-rye about 123.20 million won.

A string of district court rulings have found in favor of those forced to work for Japanese companies, following a landmark May 2012 decision by the Supreme Court of South Korea.

Reversing previous court decisions, the top court ruled that the right of former forced workers and their families to seek withheld wages and compensation was not invalidated by the 1965 Japan-South Korea agreement that settled all postwar compensation claims, prompting plaintiffs to seek damages in South Korea.

Japan maintains that all individual compensation claims were settled by the 1965 treaty, which allowed South Korea and Japan to normalize relations.

Mitsubishi Heavy has argued in South Korean courts that the plaintiffs’ claims should be rejected on this basis.