The Busan High Court has ordered Japanese firm Mitsubishi Heavy to compensate five South Korean nationals for forcing them to work for them during Japan’s colonial rule. The South Korean court has ordered them to pay damages in the amount of around $360,000. This is the second ruling of this kind just this month.
All five plaintiffs in this case are already deceased, and it was their families that represented them in court. The son of one of the plaintiffs said that it would have been better if the decision was reached when they were still alive. Two weeks earlier, the Seoul High Court ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp to compensate four South Koreans who were forcibly brought to Japan to work for them. The 16 year battle was a landmark ruling because it was the first time any court, either in Japan or South Korea, has ordered a Japanese company to pay for unpaid salaries and mental suffering. Judge Yoon Seong-keun told Nippon Steel to pay the plaintiffs $88,000 each and said they committed “crimes against humanity”.
Both Mitsubishi Heavy and Nippon Steel will be appealing the decisions. Japanese courts have usually thrown out claims from South Koreans and Chinese nationals who have brought cases related to Japanese militaristic activities. The Japanese government, as well as the companies, have always maintained the position that all issues during the colonial rule were already covered by the 1965 package agreement which normalized relations between the two countries. The South Korean government says there were around 299 Japanese companies that are still in operation who used forced labor during that period.