Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries must compensate four South Korean plaintiffs, a South Korean high court said Wednesday. File Photo by Yonhap
Dec. 5 (UPI) -- A South Korea high court on Wednesday rejected an appeal by Japanese companies that were ordered to award compensation to South Korean forced wartime laborers.
The ruling could put another dent in bilateral ties between two key U.S. allies that have steadily declined with disagreements over history and the issue of "comfort women."
According to Gwangju high court, Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries must compensate four South Korean plaintiffs, including Kim Jae-rim, 88, for being forced to work in wartime factories, Yonhap reported.
One of the plaintiffs, Oh Gil-ae, was represented by her younger brother Oh Cheol-seok, now 82, because the plaintiff died at age 14 in Japan while working in one of the wartime plants, according to the report.
Yonhap reported many of the laborers, often in their teens, were lured to work in Japan, after being told they could earn scholarships if they worked at factories.
The South Korean court ordered Mitsubishi to pay $134,000 in compensation to Oh. Other victims, who survived and returned to Korea after the war, are to be compensated about $100,000 each, according to the ruling.
Last week South Korea's supreme court ordered Mitsubishi to pay five women, now in their 90s, compensation that ranges from $89,000 to $133,000, the New York Times reported.
Mitsubishi called the verdict last week "deeply regrettable," and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the court's decision is "totally unacceptable."
Japan has said a treaty signed in 1965 settled the issue of forced wartime laborers, but South Korean courts since 2012 have begun to challenge the opinion.
If Mitsubishi or other Japanese firms convicted in South Korean court refuses to pay out, plaintiffs or their families can request local courts to seize the firms' Korea-based assets, according to The Times.
Recruitment of the forced Korean laborers began in May 1944, during the final years of World War II.