Supreme Court of Korea Decision concerning Drafted Workers

Oct. 30, 2018

Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation

Supreme Court of Korea Decision concerning Drafted Workers

On October 30, 2018, the Supreme Court of Korea dismissed appeal by Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation (“NSSMC”) of a decision concerning a lawsuit originally filed in February 2005 in the Republic of Korea by four South Korean plaintiffs claiming damages for their work as draftees for Japan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. during the Second World War.

The Supreme Court’s decision is deeply regrettable, as it is contrary to the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Cooperation between Japan and the Republic of Korea that was signed on June 22, 1965, by which the Republic of Korea agreed that “no contention shall be made. . . with respect to any claims of either Contracting Party and its nationals against the other Contracting Party and its nationals” that arose during wartime.

Two of the four plaintiffs in the current case previously filed a similar lawsuit in December 1997 against NSSMC in Japanese courts; the resultant decision in favor of NSSMC was upheld by the Japanese Supreme Court in October 2003.  Thus, the Korean Supreme Court’s decision is also inconsistent with the judgment of the Japanese judiciary system although both are based on the same set of facts.

NSSMC and its board of directors will carefully review the decision of the Supreme Court of Korea in considering its next steps, taking into account the Japanese government’s responses on this matter and other factors.

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