Japan protests S. Korea's deposit payment to wartime-labor victim

Japan on Wednesday lodged a protest with South Korea over the payment via deposit of money by a Japanese corporate defendant to a South Korean plaintiff following a Seoul court ruling that ordered the firm to compensate them for wartime labor.

Masataka Okano, the Japanese Foreign Ministry's top bureaucrat, summoned South Korean Ambassador Yun Duk Min to protest the move regarding the South Korean Supreme Court's decision involving Japanese shipbuilder Hitachi Zosen Corp., according to the ministry. The ruling was finalized in December.

The compensation order was "in violation" of a bilateral agreement, and the payment of the deposited money on Tuesday caused an "unreasonable loss" to the Japanese company, the ministry said in a press release, adding that the situation was "extremely regrettable."

In line with the Japanese government's stance, Hitachi Zosen had refused to comply with the ruling that ordered it to pay the plaintiff 50 million won ($38,000) in damages.

Tokyo has said all issues stemming from its colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945 were settled "completely and finally" under a 1965 bilateral agreement.

The firm deposited 60 million won at the Seoul Central District Court in 2019 to prevent its assets in South Korea from being seized and liquidated to compensate the plaintiff.

In late January, the court granted the plaintiff's request to seize the funds.

The deposit payment is the first case in which funds from a Japanese company have been transferred to a plaintiff following a trial related to wartime forced labor, the lawyer for the plaintiff in the Hitachi Zosen case said.

© Kyodo News