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International relations

70 Japanese companies at risk of litigation after wartime ruling

Revived specter of historical labor issues leaves corporate Japan on edge

Lee Choon-shik, a victim who was forced to work for a Japanese company during World War II, sits inside the Supreme Court in Seoul on Oct. 30, 2018.   © Reuters

TOKYO/SEOUL -- Tuesday's ruling by South Korea's Supreme Court on a contentious wartime labor case involving Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal looks certain to extend beyond the Japanese steelmaker, immediately putting roughly 70 Japanese companies in South Korea at risk of losing similar court cases.

Japanese businesses have interests in many aspects of the Korean economy, including semiconductors, retail and tourism, and the ruling is likely to have a far-reaching impact on their operations. More broadly, the ruling risks shaking the foundations of the close diplomatic and economic relationship the countries have painstakingly built over decades.

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