The Supreme Court has ruled that Japanese companies must compensate Korean victims of forced labor. The ruling on Thursday has paved the way for victims to receive the money they are owed for their work 67 years after Korea gained independence from Japanese colonial rule.
The Supreme Court found in favor of 11 victims against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel, overturning rulings by lower courts in Seoul and Busan that the statute of limitations had expired. The victims were forced into labor at the Japanese manufacturers between 1941 and 1944.
"According to the Constitution of the Republic of Korea, Japan's colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula was an illegal occupation," the Supreme Court said. "The present day Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel are essentially the same companies they were in the 1940s and should be responsible for compensatory payments." The victims also filed a lawsuit with a Japanese court, but Japan's highest court ruled in 2007 that the statute of limitations had expired.
"It violates the principle of good faith for Japanese companies to claim that the statute of limitations on the case has expired," the Supreme Court said. "Even though Korea and Japan signed the 1965 Normalization Treaty" which included a lump-sum payment in compensation for colonial and wartime atrocities, "individuals still have the right to claim compensation."
If Mitsubishi and Nippon Steel refuse to pay, the victims can seek compensation by seizing the assets the Japanese companies hold in Korea.