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Mitsubishi Faces Wrath of Forced Labor Victims

A court ruling regarding Mitsubishi Heavy Industry could ignite a tense dispute between South Korea and Japan.

In an intriguing turn of events, the South Korean Suwon District Court ruled in favor of multiple plaintiffs suing the Japanese automotive giant. The accusers consisted of families of four Koreans who were forced to work for the company during the Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945).

The ruling would allow them to seize $725,000 from a payment owed by a South Korean firm to Mitsubishi.

The colonization of South Korea by Japan was filled with forced labor and military brothels, leaving a strong mark on the eventual diplomatic and economic relationships between the two East-Asian countries. Amendments were always demanded by South Korea, with Japan arguing that the issue was settled under the “The Treaty of Basic Relations” in 1965.

Tokyo’s response came in the form of a statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato who said that if Seoul acted upon the verdict, it “would push Japan-South Korea relations into a serious situation. It must be avoided.”

In contrast, Seoul assured everyone that it has been conducting talks with Japan to come up with a “reasonable solution” all while preserving diplomatic relations and the victims’ legal rights.

Lawyers of the families released a statement in response to the controversy, which read, “The victims and their families demand Mitsubishi make compensation in line with the ruling, acknowledge historical facts, and provide an apology.”

A representative for Mitsubishi declined to comment.

Relationships between the two nations have been declining lately as South Korean President Moon Jae-in annulled a plan to attend the Tokyo Olympics and hold his first summit with Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga due to controversial remarks issued by a Japanese diplomat based in Seoul.