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LinkAsia | May 17
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe keeps driving his neighbors wild. Less than a month after upsetting China and South Korea for reawakening painfu...
Now on to South Korea, where a historical wrong may be set right. When Korea was a Japanese colony, thousands of Koreans were conscripted to work in mines and factories while Japanese men went off to war.
The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945. During that time, South Korean men were forced to work in Japan's factories. Reparations were dispensed in 1965, but political and administrative red tape meant many of the workers never saw any of the money.
Now in their old age, nine of these men are seeking justice and compensation for their work. And they won a victory in court. South Korean broadcaster MBC has this report.
The South Korean Supreme Court overturned the original verdict dismissing the compensation claims of nine victims of forced labor during Japanese colonial rule, against two Japanese companies Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nippon Steel, sending the case back to the High Court.
The Japanese Supreme Court and Korean district and high courts had dismissed the plaintiffs' claims, saying the time limit to bring reparation claims had expired.
But the Supreme Court ruled that the "Japanese Supreme Court's verdict is based on the perception that Japanese colonial rule was legal, which conflicts with core values in South Korean constitutional law."
The court also decided that there was no expiration date for bringing reparation claims, regardless of the 1965 Korea-Japan treaty.
This means that claim rights for reparation due to illegal activities should not expire on account of the treaty.
Nine victims were conscripted by Japan and forced to work for two Japanese companies. They came back to Korea with injuries when the Allied Forces started air raids.
Yeo Woon-taek, Forced Labor Victim:
Our blood and sweat labor will be rewarded by Japan.
This verdict allows plaintiffs to be compensated from money raised by the seizure of two Japanese companies' property in South Korean territory.
This victorious verdict for them occurred 70 years after the forced labor, 12 years after the first lawsuit, so more lawsuits will be filed.
Just about any bit of unfinished business from Japan's colonization of Korea and its record in World War Two gets Korean social media lit up.
This tweet says:
"Um... Wondering about recent lawsuits against Japanese companies demanding compensation for the victims of forced labor: Is there any case where Jewish people won a lawsuit against German military companies?"
And another challenged Japan to act responsibly:
"Japan's government says the verdict is invalid... If Japan wants to be a central country in Asia, a member of the UN Security Council, it should reflect international humanitarianism, not ignore it."
Japanese social media users had a very different take. This post said:
"...through the Korea-Japan Treaty, Japan has already compensated Korea."
And another compared South Koreans to welfare cheats:
"Just like social welfare benefits, when Koreans want some pocket money, they find a pretext to demand we pay compensation."
In Japan, meanwhile, Nikon -- that's the camera and optical equipment maker. Well, Nikon has cancelled an exhibition of photos featuring Korean comfort women. These were sex slaves recruited to serve Japanese soldiers. Nikon is a member of the Mitsubishi Group of companies, one of the defendants in the Korean lawsuit.