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Seoul court orders Japanese firm to compensate forced labor victims

All Headlines 11:30 August 25, 2016

SEOUL, Aug. 25 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul district court on Thursday ordered a Japanese firm to compensate 14 South Koreans subjected to forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule.

The Central District Court ruled in favor of the South Korean victims who filed a suit in 2013 based on their claim that they were forced by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to work at a Hiroshima-based weapons factory for about a year from September 1944.

The court ordered the Japanese firm to pay 90 million won (US$80,292) each to the victims.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries previously refused to offer financial compensation to the victims, arguing that the company in the 1940s is different from the current one. Also, it said the compensation issue has already been settled under a bilateral deal signed in 1965 between South Korea and Japan.

In 1965, Seoul and Tokyo inked the so-called normalization deal that restored full diplomatic relations. Under the deal, Tokyo offered financial assistance to Seoul, which was used to push forward economic development following the 1950-53 Korean War.

Tokyo has argued that with the deal, all compensation issues stemming from its colonial occupation of South Korea have been settled. But Seoul argues that some issues, including Japan's wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women, were not covered by the agreement.

Moreover, South Korea's Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that it is hard to conclude that the individual victims' rights to claim compensation have been removed due to the normalization agreement.

Meanwhile, a separate case involving other victims of forced labor is pending at the Supreme Court. The victims also claim that they were forced to work for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries during the colonial period.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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