A Seoul court on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by victims of Japan’s system of wartime forced labor, saying they have no right to bring individual lawsuits against Japanese companies.
The Seoul Central District Court ruled that while the 1965 treaty normalizing ties with Japan does not mean individuals lose their right to file claims, the victims cannot exercise this right by suing the Japanese firms either.
Six years ago, 84 victims and their families filed a lawsuit against 17 Japanese companies, including Nippon Steel, Nissan Chemical Corporation and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
According to Japan, the 1965 agreement between Seoul and Tokyo includes compensation for the victims and thus completely and finally settles the issue.
Monday’s ruling was a surprise to some, especially because it contradicts a 2018 ruling by the South Korean Supreme Court ordering a Japanese steelmaker to pay around 87-thousand U.S. dollars each to four Koreans the company forced to work for it during World War 2, when the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule.
The latest case is in fact the biggest lawsuit filed so far by the victims of forced labor, and there are a total of 19 lawsuits on the same issue still ongoing.
The head of the Civil Litigation Group against Japan, a civic group representing the plaintiffs, called Monday’s ruling “unbelievable” and pledged to immediately appeal to the court.
The South Korean government, responding to the ruling, said it will continue to consult with Japan to find a reasonable solution that Seoul, Tokyo and all related parties can accept while respecting the judgments of the courts and the victims’ rights and also considering relations between the two countries.
Kim Dami, Arirang News.

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