The South Korean Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Japanese steelmaker Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal to pay compensation to four Korean workers who were forced to work for the firm during WWII. Each plaintiff will be awarded $87,700 although only one, Lee Choon-Shik (aged 94), is still alive.
In a press release, Nippon Steel declared that the Supreme Court’s decision was “deeply regrettable, as it is contrary to the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Cooperation … by which the Republic of Korea agreed that ‘no contention shall be made … with respect to any claims of either Contracting Party and its nationals against the other Contracting Party and its nationals’ that arose during wartime.”
The two countries have shared a contentious relationship since Japan occupied Korea in 1905 and maintained a brutal dictatorship for 40 years; Korea still blames its economic troubles on Japan’s wartime activities. Previously, in 2015, Japan committed to pay $1.3 million to care for surviving Korean “comfort women,” or forced military prostitutes, from WWII.
“NSSMC and its board of directors will carefully review the decision of the Supreme Court of Korea in considering its next steps,” said Nippon Steel.