Court orders Japanese firm to compensate forced wartime laborer

Angela Jung, March 16, 2017, 9:21 a.m.

 A Seoul court on Thursday ordered a Japanese company to compensate a South Korean for forced work during Japan's colonial rule. In the latest legal victory for wartime forced laborers, the Seoul Central District Court ruled in favor of Lee Chun-myeon, 86, who filed the case against Nichi-Fujikoshi Corp. in May 2015.

The court ordered the Japanese firm to pay 100 million won (US$88,500) to the plaintiff in compensation for her coerced work at a factory in Toyama Prefecture in the 1940s.

"Japan mobilized forced laborers for the military industry during its unlawful wars, such as the Sino-Japanese War or the Pacific War, and Fujikoshi actively joined the bandwagon," Judge Ryu Jong-myeong said.

The company deceived the plaintiff, who was 13 years old at that time, to apply for the work with a promise of education and money, the court said. The victim, in fact, worked 10-12 hours a day, six days a week, and was ordered to carry out dangerous tasks, according to the court.

"Fujikoshi has the obligation to compensate for the mental suffering Lee endured," the judge said.

The court did not accept the defendant's claim that the Korean laborers no longer have the right to seek compensation from their former Japanese employers, as the issue was closed under the 1965 treaty between the two countries to normalize diplomatic ties.

The court said the treaty did not terminate an individual's right to seek compensation.

The same court also ruled in favor of five other victims in a similar case last year.

Historians say millions of Koreans were coerced into labor during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

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