South Korea's Supreme Court on Thursday upheld decisions by lower courts ordering two Japanese firms, Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, to pay damages to South Koreans for wartime labor.

The rulings came as South Korea-Japan relations have been improving since Seoul announced in March its plan for solving the wartime labor issue.

They were the first such rulings by the top court since late 2018 when it upheld orders in separate judgments for Nippon Steel, then named Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to pay damages for forced labor during Japan's colonial rule.