The Supreme Court of South Korea confirmed this Thursday the conviction of two Japanese companies to compensate victims of forced labor during Japanese colonial rule of the Korean peninsula, between 1910-1945.
The court rejected the last possible appeal in two lawsuits filed against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel, between 2013 and 2014, which join other similar compensation orders confirmed in 2018.
The sentence handed down against Mitsubishi obliges the company to pay between 100 and 150 million won (between 70 thousand and 105 thousand euros) to three victims and a family member as compensation for unpaid work at an aircraft factory in Nagoya, central Japan.
Or verdict demands that NipponSteel pay 100 million won (70 thousand euros) to seven other victims of forced labor in the Japanese cities of Kamaishi (north) and Kitakyushu (southwest), although they all died during the process, which began in 2013.
The occupation of the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945 has long weighed on bilateral relations between Seoul and Tokyo.
According to historians, the archipelago forcibly recruited hundreds of thousands of Koreans during this period to fuel the defense industry in the midst of war.
These decisions are “extremely regrettable and we do not accept them”, said the Japanese government spokesperson in Tokyo, at a press conference.
Yoshimasa Hayashi afirmou que Japan will formally protest against these cases, which “clearly violate the (…) compensation agreement”.
Tokyo has always claimed that the historic dispute had been resolved by a 1965 treaty, which involved the payment of around 733 million euros in compensation, in the form of grants and low-interest loans.
Also the MitsubishiHeavy e a NipponSteel with have refused a to accept the sentences.
The victims and their families requested the seizure of assets from the two companies, in separate cases that are still awaiting resolution in the Supreme Court of South Korea.
On November 24, the same body had ordered Japan to compensate 16 women forced into sexual slavery in Japanese military brothels during the Second World War, in a decision criticized by Tokyo.
Japan ordered to compensate South Korean victims of sexual slavery during the war
Historians have pointed out that around 200,000 women, mainly from Korea but also from other Asian countries, including China, were forced to become sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
The conservative government of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has sought to strengthen ties with Tokyo so that the two countries can jointly confront North Korea.
The Japanese government denies direct responsibility for abuses during the war, noting that the victims were recruited by civilians and that military brothels were commercially exploited.