South Korea top court orders Japan’s Mitsubishi to compensate former South Korean forced laborers

FILE PHOTO: A visitor is seen at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' booth during the Maritime Air Systems and Technologies Asia (MAST) show in Chiba, Japan June 12, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s top court ruled on Thursday that Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd must compensate 28 South Koreans for their forced labor during World War Two, a ruling that drew an immediate rebuke from Tokyo.

The decision echoed the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict last month that ruled in favor of South Koreans seeking compensation from Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. for their wartime forced labor.

The court upheld a 2013 appeals court decision that Mitsubishi must pay 80 million won ($71,000) to each of the 23 plaintiffs in compensation.

In a separate ruling, the court also ordered Mitsubishi to pay up to 150 million won to each of five plaintiffs or their families.

Mitsubishi was not immediately available for comment after the ruling.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono quickly issued a statement in which he said the court’s decisions were “totally unacceptable”.

“This fundamentally overturns the legal basis for friendly ties between Japan and South Korea and is extremely regrettable,” Kono said.

Previous cases the five former laborers had brought in Japan were dismissed on the grounds that their right to reparation was terminated by a 1965 treaty normalizing diplomatic ties between Seoul and Tokyo.

However, the South Korean Supreme Court upheld last month’s ruling that Japan’s occupation of the peninsula was illegal.

“The treaty does not cover the right of the victims of forced labor to compensation for crimes against humanity committed by a Japanese company in direct connection with the Japanese government’s illegal colonial rule and war of aggression against the Korean peninsula,” the court said in a statement.

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