In Brief

Mitsubishi ordered to pay compensation for WWII slave labour

Eleven victims win court ruling as tensions rise between Japan and South Korea

South Korea’s Supreme Court has ordered a Japanese company to compensate 11 South Koreans who were subject to forced labour during the Second World War. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd must pay up to 150m won (£104,000) to the victims or their relatives.

The court’s decision upholds two lower court rulings, one of which ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to pay five women between 100m and 150m won, and in a separate ruling an additional 80m won to six men who were forced to work in a Mitsubishi shipyard and machine tool factory during the war.

One of the plaintiffs, 90-year-old Kim Seong-ju, cried as she spoke to the press. “I have harboured this grudge all my life, and I’m still living as if all of my bones protrude. That’s the weight of my grudges,” she said.

This is the court’s second blow to Japan, following the landmark verdict in October in favour of a group of South Koreans forced to work for Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp during the war.  

Despite Japan’s insistence that reparations for forced labour were settled in a peace treaty at the end of the war, the court rulings uphold the right of individual victims to seek compensation.

In a statement issued after the Mitsubishi ruling, Japan’s foreign minister, Taro Kono, warned that the verdict “fundamentally overturns the legal basis for friendly ties between Japan and South Korea”.

The Daily Telegraph reports that political analysts fear the court’s decision will intensify an already strained relationship between the two countries.

“There is a deep frustration in Tokyo that these sorts of rulings make it difficult to move forward on issues such as economic cooperation, security in north-east Asia and any number of other pressing matters right now,” Jun Okumura, a political analyst at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, told the Telegraph. 

During the war, thousands of Koreans were forced to work in factories and mines in Japan. Korean women were among the thousands coerced into working as “comfort women”, or sex slaves, for Japanese troops across Asia.

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