Korean court orders Japanese steel maker to compensate forced wartime laborers

13 November 2015

A South Korean court on Friday ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to compensate seven Koreans who were forced to work at one of its predecessor companies during the war a total of 700 million won (about ¥74 million).

The Seoul Central District Court awarded 100 million won in damages to each of the plaintiffs, the same amount they sued the Japanese company for.

An eighth plaintiff who was part of the original lawsuit filed in March 2013 is now suing the company separately for procedural reasons.

The court said the company is obliged to compensate the plaintiffs for the long-lasting physical and mental pain inflicted after they were conscripted into labor at the factories of its predecessor, Nippon Steel Corp., during the war. These sites included foundries in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, and Kitakyushu.

The ruling is one of several, including another against the same company and against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp., that have been handed down since the South Korean Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a 1965 treaty with Japan that settled postwar compensation claims cannot stop individuals from seeking compensation from Japan.

In 2011, the Japanese Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by South Koreans who were conscripted into forced labor, on the grounds that individuals lost the right to demand compensation under the 1965 treaty, which normalized Japan-South Korean relations.

The South Korean rulings have been delivered amid friction with Japan over a territorial dispute and conflicting interpretations of wartime history.