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Japan protests South Korean court ruling on wartime forced labor

By Wooyoung Lee
Japan protests South Korean court ruling on wartime forced labor
The front page of the morning editions of Japanese newspapers report South Korea's Supreme Court upheld a 2013 ruling on damages claims by four victims of Japan's wartime forced labor. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Japan will ask companies sued over forced wartime labor not to agree to compensation or ask for reconciliation with complainants, in a protest to a South Korean court ruling that ordered a steelmaker compensate for forced labor during World War II, Japanese news media reported.

The Japanese government will hold a briefing for local companies sued over wartime forced labor and request the companies not to agree to pay compensation or offer reconciliation, Mainichi Shimbun reported on Thursday.

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Some 70 Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, are involved in compensation lawsuits over wartime forced labor.

The South Korean Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp. should pay more than $87,000 (100 million won) to each of the four South Koreans for forced labor and unpaid wages under the Japanese colonial rule.

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Nippon Steel protested the ruling, saying that compensation issues had already been settled in a 1965 treaty between Japan and South Korea.

"The ruling goes against the 1965 Korea-Japan Claims Settlement Agreement and Economic Cooperation Agreement, signed between South Korea and Japan," Nippon Steel said, according to Yonhap News.

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The Japan Iron and Steel Federation denounced the South Korean court ruling, saying it unilaterally misinterpreted the settlement agreement between Japan and South Korea.

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also decried the Seoul's court ruling at a parliamentary budget committee on Thursday, Mainichi Shimbun reported.

"The court ruling doesn't make sense based on the international law. Japan will respond to it with putting every option on the table, including taking it to an international court," he said.

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