Japanese firm Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has been ordered by the Supreme Court of South Korea to compensate 10 Koreans for forced labor during the colonial rule of Tokyo on the Korean Peninsula around 1910-1945 in a trial that lasted for 18 years.
On Thursday, South Korea’s top court ruled in two separate verdicts, which involved the laborers or their bereaved family members, that Mitsubishi must provide 80 million to 150 million won ($71,190-$133,510) in compensation to each of the plaintiffs.
Following a similar verdict just weeks ago, the ruling has since sparked protests in Japan, reported the Associated Press.
The same court ruled on Oct. 30 that Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. must compensate four Korean men with 100 million won ($87,680) to each for similar colonial-era forced labor, following over five years of deliberation.
In reaction to both rulings, Japan expressed that the issue of forced laborers has already been settled when Tokyo and Seoul signed a treaty in 1965, which restored diplomatic ties.
Observers believe that the rulings will be affecting pending lawsuits in South Korean courts of the same nature.
According to Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, the ruling is “extremely regrettable and absolutely unacceptable.”
“The ruling not only imposes unfair damages to Japanese companies but fundamentally overturns the legal foundation of friendly and cooperative relations that Japan and South Korea have built since the 1965 normalization,” Kono was quoted as saying.
However, the court stated in its latest ruling that the 1965 treaty does not prevent individual rights to seek compensations for forced labor because the use of such laborers were “acts of illegality against humanity.” It further noted that such practice by the Japanese companies were linked to Japan’s “illegal” colonial rule and wartime aggression.
Responding to the Nippon Steel case last month, Kono noted that Japan could potentially elevate the case to the International Court of Justice.
While Japan and South Korea are close neighbors and both allies of the United States, the relationship between the two nations has deteriorated in recent years due to many disputes, such as the territorial claims on Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo or Takeshima), the Japanese prime minister’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine, differing views on Imperial Japan’s treatment of colonial Korea, and Japan’s refusal to negotiate Korea’s demands that it apologize or pay reparations for mistreatment of World War II comfort women from Korea.
Featured image via YouTube/ Arirang News