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Japan reiterates 1965 deal settled individual compensation to forced labor victims

TOKYO -- Japan on Wednesday reiterated its stance that a 1965 Seoul-Tokyo deal settled all issues of individual compensation to victims of forced labor during its colonial rule of Korea, rejecting a South Korean court ruling in favor of the victims.

South Korea's Gwangju District Court ruled the previous day that the Japanese firm Mitsubishi Heavy Industries must pay 120 million won ($106,572) in compensation to Kim Young-ok, 85, and 3.25 million won ($2,892) to a family member of late victim Choe Jeong-rye for their toiling labor.

Asked about the ruling during a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the problems concerning property, rights and interest of individuals between South Korea and Japan "are completely settled under the 1965 agreement on resolving colonial-era issues."

Shipbuilding yard in Nagasaki where Korean workers were forced to labor (Yonhap)
Shipbuilding yard in Nagasaki where Korean workers were forced to labor (Yonhap)

Suga, the Japanese government top spokesman, added the government will deal with the issue in an appropriate way based on the stance that all issues of wartime reparations have been "completely and finally" settled with the 1965 treaty.

In Monday's ruling, the court said, "It is difficult to see that individual rights to damages are included in the Korea-Japan reparations treaty."

In a landmark decision in May 2012 that reversed previous lower court decisions, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that the rights of former forced laborers and their families to seek withheld wages and compensation were not invalidated by the treaty that normalized relations between the two countries. (Yonhap)