History haunts Nippon, Mitsubishi

11 January 2019 | Economics

Tokyo said yesterday it would seek talks with Seoul after a second South Korean court ruling against a Japanese firm that used wartime forced labour.

The case has become a growing source of tension between the two countries, and Japanese ministers were set to meet on the issue late yesterday.

In another wartime forced labour case, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. faces a similar order by a South Korean court to compensate two groups of South Koreans. A South Korean court last week authorised the seizure of assets belonging to Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, after the firm failed to comply with an earlier order to compensate victims of forced labour.

"The move by the plaintiffs to seize the assets of a Japanese company is extremely regrettable. The Japanese government regards this very seriously," said top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga. "We plan to request a discussion with the South Korean government" on the case, he added.

Ties between Seoul and Tokyo have remained icy for years because of bitter disputes over history and territory stemming from Japan's brutal 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula. According to official Seoul data, around 780 000 Koreans were conscripted into forced labour by Japan during Tokyo's 35-year occupation, not including the women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops.

Japan has maintained that all historical compensation issues between the two nations were settled under the 1965 treaty that re-established diplomatic relations between the countries. The treaty included a reparations package of about US$800 million in grants and cheap loans. Japan argues the rulings are a breach of the treaty and international law. - NAMPA/AFP

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