S. Korea, Japan brace for stormy ties after court ruling on WWII victims

SEOUL, Oct. 30 (Yonhap) -- The already tumultuous relations between South Korea and Japan were dealt a fresh blow Tuesday with a landmark ruling by Seoul's top court which acknowledged individual rights to compensation for damage caused during Japan's brutal colonial rule.

It has opened a "Pandora's box" for the neighboring countries dogged by a decadeslong history of territorial disputes, officials and experts here said.

"The ruling is expected to shake the foundation of South Korea-Japan relations maintained since the signing of the 1965 agreement on the settlement of problems related to property, claims and economic cooperation," a senior foreign ministry official told Yonhap News Agency on the condition of anonymity.

The Supreme Court upheld a 2013 verdict in favor of four South Koreans, who were forced into harsh labor in the early 1940s.

It ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., a Japanese steelmaker, to pay each victim 100 million won (US$87,720).

The ruling contradicts the Japanese top court's decision to dismiss a person's right to compensation for the wartime crime against humanity.

The Seoul court made it clear that although the issue of government-level reparations was settled in the 1965 deal, individual rights to compensation remain valid.

The decision, which put an end to nearly 14 years of legal disputes here over the issue, is expected to affect about a dozen other damages suits against Japanese authorities and companies and usher in a flood of similar cases, worsening already soured Seoul-Tokyo ties.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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