GWANGJU, SOUTH KOREA – Lawyers of South Korean plaintiffs who won a compensation case against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. over wartime forced labor asked a local court Tuesday to sell assets of the manufacturer seized in South Korea.
A civil group supporting the claimants announced the move at a news conference in the city of Gwangju.
Mitsubishi Heavy is the third Japanese company to face a similar asset liquidation request in the country’s legal system following court rulings ordering some Japanese firms to compensate Korean plaintiffs for forced labor during World War II.
The lawyers had set July 15 as the deadline for Mitsubishi Heavy to agree to compensation talks, but the deadline passed without any response from the company.
The issue of compensation stemming from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula has soured ties between the two countries, with the envisioned asset sale seen in Japan as a real flashpoint.
The South Korean Supreme Court in November ordered Mitsubishi Heavy to compensate two groups of Korean plaintiffs for forcing them to work at its factories in Japan during the last war.
The company refused to comply, however, as Japan takes the position that claims stemming from its 1910-1945 colonial rule were “settled completely and finally” under a 1965 bilateral accord.
At the request of the lawyers, a local court in March approved the seizure of two trademarks and six patents the company owned in South Korea.
The assets are presumed to be worth about 800 million won ($679,000) and should cover compensation for four of the plaintiffs, according to the lawyers.
Tuesday’s request concerns all of the seized assets, according to the civic group.
Two other companies — Nippon Steel Corp. and Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp. — have had their assets seized in South Korea following court orders to compensate South Korean plaintiffs over wartime forced labor.
Lawyers for plaintiffs in the cases against the two companies have already asked courts to approve the sale of such assets.
In a statement, the plaintiffs said Mitsubishi Heavy has not even expressed regret over the wartime forced labor.
The statement also accused the Japanese government of having exercised pressure on individual companies to prevent them from accepting orders to provide compensation, making efforts to offer an apology to the plaintiffs or making compensation available to them.
In addition, the plaintiffs condemned Japan’s tightened controls on semiconductor materials exports to South Korea as clear economic aggression against South Korea.