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Hearings on forced labor compensation lawsuits resume following top court ruling

March 30, 2024 - 11:34 By Yonhap
Families of South Korean forced labor victims hold a rally in front of Nippon Steel's building in Tokyo on Monday to demand compensation and an apology for wartime atrocities. (Yonhap)

South Korean courts have resumed or are set to hold hearings on lawsuits filed by forced labor victims under Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule after the top court cleared the way for them to file lawsuits against Japanese companies.

The Seoul Central District Court on Tuesday held a hearing for the compensation lawsuit filed in 2019 by the families of forced labor victims against Japan's Nippon Steel and JX Metals, resuming the court proceedings for the first time in two years and seven months.

A separate trial for compensation lawsuits filed by 14 Korean plaintiffs against Japan's Mitsubishi Materials is slated for April 19, according to court officials.

Hearings on other lawsuits filed by different groups of forced labor survivors against Nippon Steel are scheduled in May and June, which would be held in about two to three years since the last proceedings.

The fresh round of hearings comes after the Supreme Court in December rejected the Japanese firms' claims that the statute of limitations for the colonial-era cases expired.

The top court recognized the victims' rights to damages because they had been practically unable to execute their rights to compensation until 2018, when a 2012 court case was finalized.

In 2018, the Supreme Court determined that the 1965 treaty signed between South Korea and Japan to settle colonial-era issues does not cancel out individuals' rights to claim damages.

The landmark ruling counters Japan's claims that all reparation issues had been settled under the 1965 treaty that normalized the bilateral diplomatic ties. (Yonhap)