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South Korean lawyers visit Japanese steelmaker to demand forced wartime labor damages

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Staff Writer | November 13, 2018
Lawyers and supporters of four South Korean plaintiffs, who were awarded damages by the country's top court for forced wartime labor, were refused a meeting at a Japanese steelmaker in Tokyo on Monday.
Nippon Steel
Asia   Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.
he lawyers were intending to hold a meeting at Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. and hand over a document demanding compensation for the forced labor of the plaintiffs during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

The move came following the top court in South Korea in a final ruling on Oct. 30 ordering the Japanese steelmaker to pay a total of 400 million won (350,000 U.S. dollars) to the four victims of forced labor during Japan's colonial rule.

At the reception to the steelmaker, however, the lawyers' passage was blocked by a security guard who read out a message which stated that Nippon Steel believes the ruling by the top court in South Korea "goes against" the position of the Japanese government.

The statement also said that the Japanese side believes the matter was previously settled under a bilateral accord between both countries inked in 1965.

"We are disappointed that the company made the security guard, who was not even an employee, read out the statement and turned us away at the door," Im Jae Song, one of the lawyers, was quoted as saying.

"Three of the four plaintiffs have already died. We will continue to call on the company to comply with the ruling as a company in a country ruled by law," Im added.

The secretary general of a Japanese group, Naoyoshi Yamamoto, who is supporting the forced laborers in the lawsuit and was present with the South Korean lawyers on Monday, said that the lives of the plaintiffs had been destroyed by the forced labor and as such the Japanese company should admit the fact and apologize.

"The plaintiffs' lives were destroyed by the forced labor. I want the company to face the fact and offer an apology," Yamamoto said.

After Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. refused to hold a meeting with the lawyers, Kim Se Un, another of the lawyers, told reporters that proceeding will begin to seize the assets of the Japanese company's affiliates in South Korea as means to secure the compensation.

After making another request for a meeting with Nippon Steel, the lawyers departed from the building and did not submit the document demanding compensation.

The Japanese government, for its part, has told Nippon Steel not to comply with the South Korean top court's ruling.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Japan's top government spokesperson, told a press briefing on the matter Monday that he had no comment to make on the visit to Nippon Steel by the lawyers.

He did say, however, that the Japanese government is insisting that the South Korean government take "appropriate measures immediately to correct a situation that amounts to a violation of international law created through the court ruling."

Nippon Steel itself has not yet made it public what it intends to do regrading the case.

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