Sat, Jan 19, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Japan firm loses appeal on forced labor

RESTITUTION:The Seoul High Court ordered Nachi-Fujikoshi to pay compensation to 17 South Korean women for ‘tricking’ them into forced labor during World War II

AFP, SEOUL

A Seoul court yesterday dismissed a Japanese machinery maker’s appeal against an order to pay 17 South Korean women 100 million won (US$89,151) each for forced wartime labor, the latest in a series of rulings raising tensions between the two nations.

South Korea and its former colonial power Japan are US allies who both have to contend with nuclear-armed North Korea and a rising China.

However, their relationship has been soured by issues of past history, including Koreans forced to work at Japanese firms’ factories during World War II and a territorial row over Seoul-controlled islets also claimed by Japan.

South Korean courts have made a series of orders against Japanese firms and South Korean President Moon Jae-in earlier this month said that Tokyo should take a “more humble” attitude to history.

The latest ruling involved 17 South Korean women made to work at Nachi-Fujikoshi’s Toyama assembly lines — where it produced weapons parts — from 1944 to 1945.

The victims were “tricked” into forced labor in harsh conditions, the Seoul High Court said.

In 2014, a lower court ordered Nachi-Fujikoshi to pay the plaintiffs — surviving former workers and family members of those who have died — 80 million to 100 million won in unpaid wages and compensation for emotional distress.

The company — now a manufacturer of robots and other machine tools — appealed.

However, the Seoul High Court yesterday upheld the original ruling, saying that the award was not excessively high and that the plaintiffs had a right to seek compensation.

Japan has said that the victims’ right to sue was extinguished by a 1965 deal that saw Tokyo and Seoul restore diplomatic ties and included a reparation package of about US$800 million in grants and cheap loans.

However, South Korean courts have made a series of rulings holding private Japanese businesses responsible for forced labor, drawing Tokyo’s ire, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denouncing such decisions as “impossible.”

South Korea’s top court in November lasty ear ordered Japanese giant Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to pay 80 million to 150 million won to two separate groups of 11 people for forced wartime labor at its plants.

Another court earlier this month ordered the seizure of South Korean assets owned by Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal in a similar case, prompting condemnation by Tokyo.

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