TOKYO (Kyodo) — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged Seoul on Thursday to take steps to ensure a court ruling ordering compensation for wartime laborers forced to work does not affect Japanese businesses and indicated that Tokyo would take the case to the international stage if necessary.
“To manage difficult issues between the two countries, South Korea’s efforts are indispensable. We strongly expect the South Korean government to take positive measures against the ruling,” Abe said at the House of Representatives Budget Committee.
South Korea’s Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court decision that ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to compensate four South Koreans who were forced to work during Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
Calling the ruling an “unbelievable judgment,” Abe said, “We will take resolute actions, with an eye on all possible options, including international adjudication.” He suggested Tokyo could take the case to the International Court of Justice.
The Japanese government maintains that the right to seek compensation was terminated under a 1965 bilateral treaty that stipulates that issues relating to property and claims between the two countries and their peoples have been settled “completely and finally.”
Tokyo and Seoul have occasionally been at odds over territorial and history issues, including Korean women forced to work in Japanese wartime brothels.
During their phone talks on Wednesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono requested his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung Wha, to take measures so that Japanese nationals and companies do not become subject to detrimental treatment as a result of the ruling.
The government has started contacting Japanese companies involved in similar lawsuits in South Korea to seek understanding of its stance that they should not abide by rulings upholding South Korean individuals’ compensation claims, sources close to the matter said.
A senior Foreign Ministry official told a meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Wednesday, “If even one Japanese company abides by (a compensation order), it would make no sense.”
The LDP on Thursday adopted a resolution urging the government to study countermeasures, including taking the case to the ICJ.
In South Korea, 14 other similar suits have been filed against Japanese firms, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Nachi-Fujikoshi and Hitachi Zosen.