Court Rejects Korean Slave Labor Claim against Nippon Steel
According to reports in South Korean & Japanese media, Seoul Central District Court has rejected a claim by dozens of World War II-era Korean factory workers and their relatives who sought compensation from 16 Japanese companies for their slave labor during Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea. A total of 85 plaintiffs had sought a combined KWR 8.6 billion won (USD 7.7 million) in damages from 16 Japanese companies, including Nippon Steel, Nissan Chemical and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The court dismissed their civil lawsuit after concluding the 1965 treaty doesn’t allow South Korean citizens to pursue legal action against the Japanese government or citizens over wartime grievances. Court said that accepting the plaintiffs claim would violate international legal principles that countries cannot use domestic law as justification for failures to perform a treaty.
The Seoul Central District Court said that while the plaintiffs have not lost their right to claims as individuals under a 1965 bilateral accord under which Japan provided grants and loans to South Korea, such a right cannot be exercised through lawsuits.
The decision appears to run against landmark Supreme Court rulings in 2018 that ordered Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate Korean forced laborers. It largely aligns with the position maintained by the Japanese government, which insists all wartime compensation issues were settled under a 1965 treaty normalizing relations between the two nations that were accompanied by hundreds of millions of dollars in economic aid and loans from Tokyo to Seoul.
Some plaintiffs told reporters outside the court they plan to appeal.