Japan wants talks with South Korea on forced labor case

Published January 9, 2019, 3:14 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Agence France-Presse

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

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga (Kyodo/via REUTERS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga

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

A South Korean court last week authorized 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 labor.

“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.

South Korea’s top court in November upheld rulings requiring two Japanese firms — Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries — to pay compensation to survivors of wartime forced labor.

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 labor 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 $800 million in grants and cheap loans.

Japan argues the rulings are a breach of the treaty and international law.