Japan seeking talks with South Korea on assets seizure, wartime labor ruling

09, Jan. 2019

TOKYO, Kyodo - Japan will soon seek talks with South Korea after a local court approved a request to seize a Japanese steelmaker's assets in the country following a wartime forced labor ruling, the government's top spokesman said Wednesday.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga also said at a press conference that relevant ministers will gather in the afternoon to discuss how to respond to the issue.

On Tuesday, a South Korean court said that it had approved a request to seize the local assets of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. for refusing to comply with an earlier court order to pay compensation to four South Koreans who were forced into labor during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Suga described the development as "extremely regrettable" and said Tokyo "has taken the matter seriously."

"The South Korean government has yet to take concrete steps despite Japan's request to address the situation, which violates international law," he said.

Tokyo maintains that the issue of compensation was settled "completely and finally" under a bilateral agreement to settle property claims signed alongside the 1965 Japan-South Korea basic relations treaty that established diplomatic ties. It says the South Korean rulings are "in breach of international law."

The talks, if realized, would be the first of their kind to be based on the agreement on settling property claims, according to Japanese officials.

Bilateral ties between the two Asian neighbors have rapidly deteriorated since the South Korean Supreme Court handed down the compensation order in late October.

Another similar ruling the following month ordered Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to compensate two groups of South Koreans for similar reasons.

Lawyers representing South Korean plaintiffs in the Nippon Steel case in late December requested that the Daegu District Court, in the country's southeast, seize the company's shares in a joint venture with South Korean steelmaker POSCO.

The South Korean court decision on the asset seizure will be effective upon the delivery of a notice to the joint venture. (Kyodo)