South Korea's Supreme Court orders Japanese corporations, Hitachi Zosen and Mitsubishi Heavy, to compensate former forced laborers from WWII, totaling $39,000 and $116,000 respectively. The ruling upholds prior court decisions, citing historical forced labor during the war. Japan contests, citing a 1965 treaty, while South Korea asserts individual claims for wartime atrocities.
The Supreme Court of South Korea delivered a pivotal ruling on Thursday, mandating compensation from Japanese companies Hitachi Zosen Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to former victims of forced labor during World War II. The court's directive specified a payment of approximately $39,000 by Hitachi Zosen and around $116,000 by Mitsubishi Heavy, benefiting 16 families of former workers and one individual worker, aligning with prior lower court decisions.
This recent ruling endorsed previous determinations made by lower courts, notably the Seoul High Court in January 2019, which found Hitachi Zosen accountable for compensating its former laborers. Similarly, in June 2019, the same court ruled in favor of compensation from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. This followed a 2018 verdict from the Gwangju High Court instructing Mitsubishi Heavy to pay damages to its former workers.
The historical context stems from WWII, where a substantial number of Koreans were coerced into labor in Japan to support the war effort. South Korea's Supreme Court had previously issued judgments in 2018, compelling Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel, to compensate Korean employees for wartime forced labor. However, implementation of these compensation orders by Japanese companies remains contentious.
Japan's stance on this matter aligns with the 1965 treaty, normalizing diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea. Japan asserts that past compensation claims were settled by this treaty, considering the recent verdicts as violations of its provisions, which jeopardizes bilateral ties.
Despite Japan's position, South Korea's Supreme Court has reaffirmed in the 2018 rulings that the 1965 treaty does not inhibit individuals from seeking compensation for forced labor claims, rooted in the companies' actions deemed illegal against humanity.
This recent verdict marks the second significant ruling within a week by South Korea's Supreme Court, reiterating decisions against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel for damages inflicted during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
South Korea's Supreme Court mandated compensation from Japanese companies Hitachi Zosen and Mitsubishi Heavy for former forced laborers of WWII. Despite Japan's reliance on a 1965 treaty, South Korea stands by individual claims for wartime atrocities. This ruling echoes prior court decisions, highlighting the ongoing legal debate over historical grievances.