Another Korean victim of forced labor wins suit against Japanese firm

SEOUL-- A South Korean victim of wartime forced labor in Japan again won a compensation lawsuit against a Japanese company Thursday.

The Seoul Central District Court ordered Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to pay 10 million won (US$8,610) to a South Korean man surnamed Kim to compensate for his forced labor during Japan's brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The ruling came after 252 alleged victims of forced labor in Japan and their families filed a joint lawsuit claiming they were forced to work for three Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi, in the early 1940s.

Of them, 40 plaintiffs, including Kim, argued that they were forcibly taken to Japan's Battleship Island to engage in forced labor.

The plaintiffs initially began the litigation to ask for their unpaid wages but later changed it to demand consolation money for their forced labor, citing their unclear memory.

Among them, only Kim was awarded compensation by the Seoul court, as other plaintiffs failed to prove their forced labor by Japanese companies.

In similar rulings, South Korean courts have ordered Mitsubishi to pay around 90 million won to each of its forced labor victims.

In the case of Kim, however, his compensation was determined as he only demanded 10 million won, the court explained.

The Seoul court, meanwhile, rejected Mitsubishi's claim that South Korea has no jurisdiction over the case and the lawsuit be handled according to the Japanese law.

"There may be some legal criticism, but the purpose of the Supreme Court's previous rulings (against Japanese companies) should be respected," the Seoul court said.

In November 2018, the Supreme Court upheld two rulings -- one that ordered Mitsubishi to pay between 100 million won and 120 million won each to five women and another that ordered the company to pay 80 million won each to six other forced labor victims. Following the rulings, Mitsubishi's assets in South Korea have been seized.

But the Japanese companies have not accepted the South Korean court rulings, escalating bilateral diplomatic conflict between Seoul and Tokyo.

Korea was under Japan's brutal colonial rule from 1910-45. South Korea says Japanese leaders and companies do not sincerely repent for the country's past wrongdoings and refuse to take full legal responsibility. Japan claims all reparation issues were settled in the 1965 treaty that normalized their diplomatic ties.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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