The Japanese government has warned it could take Korea to the International Court of Justice unless the Supreme Court here overturns a verdict ordering Nippon Steel to compensate World War II forced laborers.
The ICJ is the primary judicial branch of the UN and mainly settles legal disputes submitted by member states.
Japan occupied Korea from 1910-1945 and enslaved thousands of Koreans for work in its factories, but Tokyo maintains it adequately compensated the victims with a lump sum payment under a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral relations.
The Seoul High Court in a historic ruling last month rejected that argument, which has mostly stood up in Korean courts as well, and ordered Nippon Steel to pay the victims back wages and punitive damages. The company has appealed, but if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling, Nippon Steel is bound by a five-percent stake in Korea's POSCO and other assets here, which could otherwise be seized.
Tokyo last week threatened to prevent Japanese firms from paying compensation under this or similar rulings, but it is hard to see how that would work in the case of Nippon Steel.