Ex-Mitsubishi Workers Of South Korea Wants To Sell Its Assets Over Historic Forced Labor

Korean workers who were once forced to work for the Japanese company Mitsubishi during the colonial-era now want a court to pass a verdict which would allow compensation of their ordeals for forced labor back then from the sale of assets of their former Japanese employer.

It has been years that the issue has been a bone of contention between South Korea and Japan which took a new turn recently after a court verdict in South Korea on the issue in favor of the Korean workers. That prompted Japan to impose restrictions on export of three high-tech materials to South Korea that are critical for manufacturing of micro chips and display screens and South Korean companies have warned that the measure could hamper their production. That in turn could upend the global supply chain of smartphones because the manufactured chips and display units are used in manufacturing of smartphones for companies such as Apple.

A South Korean court would be soon approached to seek order to authorize the sales of some assets that South Korea has seized from Mitsubishi, said the lawyers and supporters of the Koreans who were forced to work for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries during Japan’s 1910-45 occupation of Korea in a joint statement.

Some of Mitsubishi’s trademark rights and patents are among its assets being mentioned here.

Kim Yeong Hwan, an activist with a group that signed the statement, told the media in South Korea that if the court passes the order for sale, funds would be raised by auctioning off Mitsubishi’s assets which would be paid as compensation and the entire process could take as long as six months.

Following an order from a South Korean court against Mitsubishi asking it to pay compensation, efforts to discuss the issue with the Japanese company by the supporters of the elderly former workers failed, they said. While the company has not respondents, some of the workers are dying of old age.

Analysts fear that if the South Korean court orders the auction of the assets of Mitsubishi, the relation between Japan and South Korea would be further antagonized after the recent trade spat between them.

However Japan has said that its decision to curb exports of some high tech materials to South Korea has no relation to the court ruling in South Korea which ruled that compensation to South Korea is still owed by Japanese companies.

However, it is possible that further tough action could be taken by Japan if it is pushed harder by South Korea on the issues of historical relevance only, warned Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Tuesday. “If Japanese companies are actually harmed, we will be forced to take necessary measures,” he told reporters, without giving details. “To prevent that, we urge the South Korean government to take appropriate actions.”

Japan wants the issues related to Korean wartime labor dispute be settled through third-party arbitration according to an agreement signed between them in 1965.

(Adapted from ABCNews.com)

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