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Japan-South Korea rift

Nippon Steel appeals South Korean court order over asset sale

Shares seized after company declined to compensate plaintiffs for wartime labor

The Supreme Court in Seoul ordered Japan's Nippon Steel in October 2018 to compensate South Korean plaintiffs for wartime labor.    © Reuters

SEOUL (Kyodo) -- Nippon Steel Corp. on Wednesday appealed a South Korean court order over the sale of company assets South Korean plaintiffs have seized in connection with wartime labor issues.

The appeal came after a district court branch in the southeastern city of Daegu issued an order on Dec. 30 to sell 194,000 shares worth about 94 million yen ($815,000) in a joint venture involving Nippon Steel and South Korean steelmaker POSCO.

The shares were seized after Nippon Steel did not compensate the plaintiffs over wartime labor despite the top South Korean court ordering the company in October 2018 to pay compensation for South Korean plaintiffs who were mobilized to work for Japan Iron & Steel Co., its forerunner, during the Japanese colonial era.

Nippon Steel said in a comment that it understands the issue of compensation was settled "completely and finally" by a 1965 agreement Tokyo and Seoul signed alongside a treaty that established diplomatic ties.

"We will respond appropriately while taking into account the state of diplomatic negotiations between the Japanese and South Korean governments," it said.

If the assets were liquidated, it would deal a significant blow to already frayed bilateral relations.

Last September, the Daejeon District Court ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to sell assets in South Korea to provide compensation to wartime laborers, making it the first such order on a Japanese company in relation to the issue.

Mitsubishi Heavy immediately appealed the ruling.

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