Japan Protests South Korean Court Ordering Mitsubishi Heavy to Sell Assets

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Japan has protested a South Korean court order that assets seized from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries be sold off to pay compensation to two women subjected to forced labor for the company during Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula. A support group for the South Korean forced labor victims welcomed the court decision as a “step forward” on compensation, but top Japanese officials warned of serious impacts to already strained diplomatic ties.

According to Japan’s foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi, the ruling by the Daejeon District Court in South Korea was a “clear violation of international law”. Motegi described the court’s decision as “truly regrettable” during a regular news conference in Tokyo and said “We must avoid serious impacts on Japan-South Korea relations.”

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Japan has called upon the vice consul at the South Korean embassy in Tokyo to protest the verdict, while Mitsubishi Heavy said it would appeal the court decision. Relations between the two countries, both important U.S. allies in North Asia, have been dogged by the bitter legacy of Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation.

Disagreements over recent rulings related to wartime forced labor, including in brothels, have been followed by a dispute over export controls which has yet to be resolved. The two women, Yang Geum-deok and Kim Sung-joo, worked at a Mitsubishi aircraft factory in Nagoya, Japan when they were teens during World War II.

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South Korea’s Supreme Court in 2018 ordered Mitsubishi Heavy to compensate the victims, but the company has not done so, with Japan arguing the matter was settled under a 1965 treaty. A later series of South Korean court rulings allowed seizures of Mitsubishi Heavy assets in the country, drawing strong rebukes from Tokyo.

In the latest decision, the Daejeon District Court in South Korea ruled on Monday that Mitsubishi Heavy should liquidate two patents and two trademarks among those seized assets to pay compensation to the women, who are both in their 90s, according a court official. The compensation for each woman was estimated at around 210 million won ($178,023), according to the Victims of Japanese Wartime Forced Labor support group.

Source: Reuters

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