Mitsubishi Heavy appeals asset seizure

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Mitsubishi Heavy appeals asset seizure

Activists stage a protest in front of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Tokyo on Oct. 10, demanding that the company apologize and compensate Korean victims of wartime forced labor. [YONHAP]

Activists stage a protest in front of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Tokyo on Oct. 10, demanding that the company apologize and compensate Korean victims of wartime forced labor. [YONHAP]

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries appealed a Daejeon court's order to seize its assets in Korea to compensate victims of Japan's wartime forced labor immediately after the legal procedure to enable the liquidation process took effect last week.
  
According to court officials Sunday, the Japanese company filed an appeal with the Daejeon District Court against a seizure order for four patent rights last Wednesday. It also appealed orders to seize two patent and two trademark rights last Thursday.
   
On Dec. 29 and 30, the Daejeon court finished delivery by public notification of documents notifying Mitsubishi that it needed to sell its assets in Korea, legally enabling the liquidation process to take effect.  
 
The court decided to serve the order through public notification in November because legal documents were not able to be delivered to Mitsubishi after the company refused to comply with a 2018 ruling by the Korean Supreme Court to compensate five victims of wartime forced labor. 
 
The Supreme Court on Oct. 30, 2018, ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal to compensate four victims of forced labor during World War II. It made a similar ruling on Nov. 29, 2018, ordering Mitsubishi to compensate five plaintiffs, including 91-year-old victim Yang Geum-deok, 100 to 150 million won ($92,000 to $139,000).
 
Korea’s top court acknowledged the illegality of Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule and recognized that the individuals' rights to compensation had not expired.  
 
Japan has strongly protested the decisions, claiming that all compensation issues related to its colonial rule were resolved through a 1965 treaty normalizing bilateral relations.  
 
Both Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi refused to comply with the Korean top court's decisions, leading to a drawn out legal process enabling the liquidation process of the companies’ assets in Korea to begin, a move expected to escalate tensions between Seoul and Tokyo.  
 
The compensation issue has spurred a diplomatic row and trade spat after Tokyo implemented export restrictions on Korea impacting its semiconductor and display industries. Japan also removed Korea from a so-called white list of trusted trading partners, a move reciprocated by Seoul.  
 
The forced labor victims filed a request to sell off six patents and two trademarks held in Korea by Mitsubishi with the Daejeon court in March 2019.  
 
Tokyo has been warning that the selling off of Japanese companies’ assets could bring further repercussions.  
 
The Korean government has been trying to de-escalate tensions with its neighbor while maintaining that it will respect the decision of the judiciary branch.    
 
When asked if there are indications of any retaliatory movement in Japan for the assets being sold, Choi Young-sam, spokesman for the Korean Foreign Ministry, replied in a briefing last Tuesday, “The government respects the decision of the judicial branch and rights of the victims while taking into account Korea-Japan relations and other factors, remaining open to discussions on various reasonable solutions.”  
 
He added that the government is “ready to listen to various opinions and to closely consult with the Japanese side to find a solution.”  
 
The Daegu District Court’s Pohang branch in early December rejected two appeals filed by Nippon Steel over a similar court decision to seize the company’s assets in Korea.  
 
BY SARAH KIM   [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
 
 
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