The victims are yet to apply for the sale of the steelmaker’s assets, leaving open the possibility of negotiations with the Japanese firm.
Nippon Steel said it plans to continue consulting with the Japanese government over its response to the court’s decision.
In October, the Supreme Court ordered the Japanese firm to pay 100 million won in compensation to each Korean forced into labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule. Lee Chun-sik, 95, is the only surviving victim out of the four who brought the suit. The following month, the top court ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate 10 former forced laborers in a separate ruling.
Tokyo has denounced the rulings as “unacceptable,” saying all wartime reparations had been settled under a 1965 treaty that normalized diplomatic relations between South Korea and Japan.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tokyo would seek consultation with Seoul to stop the seizure.
In accordance with the Normalization Treaty, the Japanese government plans to request official consultation with the South Korean government to resolve conflicts diplomatically. If the two fail to reach an agreement during the consultations, Japan could seek the involvement of a third country for arbitration. If they still cannot find middle ground, Japan will consider taking the case to the International Court of Justice, according to Japanese media reports.
Japan is also reportedly considering seizing assets of South Korean companies based in Japan or increasing tariffs on South Korean imports as countermeasures.
South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs will respond to Japan's offer, if made, after a "prudent review," based on inter-agency discussions, a ministry official said.
"Nothing has been decided yet," the official said.
Seoul has set up a committee under Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon to draw up follow-up measures that respect the judiciary’s decision without further damaging ties with Japan.