Japan business group warns on Korea ruling

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Japan business group warns on Korea ruling

TOKYO - A group of Japanese business associations yesterday expressed “deep concern” about a Korean court ruling demanding compensation for Korean workers conscripted by Japanese companies during World War II, stating the decision may be harmful to bilateral economic relations.

The Keidanren, or the Japan Business Federation, which comprises the Japan Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Japan Committee for Economic Development, teamed up with the Korea-Japan Economic Association yesterday to issue a joint statement against the court ruling, saying the issue of compensation for conscripted Korean workers was already resolved in the 1965 settlement between Japan and Korea that normalized the countries’ relations.

The Korean court decision may become “an obstacle to the future investment in Korea or business development, as well as lead to a freeze to the bilateral trade and investment relations,” said the statement.

While Japanese financial organizations have spoken before on economic matters, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership or consumer taxes, it is rare for them to express opinions on the two countries’ historical issues, especially to a court ruling in Korea. Many observers said that the statement can be seen as an indication of the deepening rift between the countries, as political issues bleed into economics.

In response to the statement, the Federation of Korean Industries sent a protest letter to the Keidanren, stating, “This overturns a tacit agreement between the two countries’ businessmen to follow the principle of separating the economy and politics.”

The view that the 1965 agreement settled all issues related to colonial rule, sex slavery and forced labor is in line with the Japanese government’s position, but is not accepted by Seoul. The Korean Constitutional Court has ruled that a clause in the 1965 settlement of claims with Japan leaves room for negotiations when there is a difference of opinion on its interpretation.

The Gwangju District Court last Friday ruled in favor of four women who were forced to work at Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, awarding the women 150 million won ($141,000) each and 80 million won to the families of two deceased workers.

This was not the first such ruling by Korean courts. On July 10, the Seoul High Court in a landmark ruling ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal (previously Nippon Steel Corporation) to pay four of its former workers 100 million won. And on July 30, the Busan High Court ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to pay 80 million won to the families of five former Korean employees.

BY KIM HYUN-KI, SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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