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Japan-South Korea rift

Nippon Steel appeals South Korean court-ordered asset seizure

Prospect of liquidation further strains frayed ties between two neighbors

Nippon steel has appealed a ruling by a South Korean court ordering the seizure of some of its assets in the country. The steelmaker rejected an earlier court order to compensate former wartime laborers.

SEOUL (Kyodo) -- Japanese steelmaker Nippon Steel Corp. filed an immediate appeal on Friday over the court-ordered seizure of some of its assets in South Korea stemming from a 2018 South Korean top court wartime labor compensation order against it.

The order by a South Korean district court to seize the assets went into effect earlier this week, bringing a contentious liquidation of the assets closer to reality. The liquidation, if realized, could imperil already frayed ties between the two countries.

The district court will now decide whether to accept the appeal. A lawyer representing plaintiffs in the case has said an appeal by the steelmaker lacks reasonable grounds and would be a delaying tactic.

Even if the appeal is rejected, it is expected to take at least several months from the time of the rejection before the assets can be liquidated upon a court order and proceeds from the sale can be paid to the plaintiffs.

Friday's immediate appeal by Nippon Steel was confirmed by the court.

In June, the court formally informed Nippon Steel of its order to seize a portion of the company's shares in POSCO-Nippon Steel RHF Joint Venture, a joint venture with South Korean steelmaker POSCO.

After two months of public notification via the court's website, the court order was considered delivered to Nippon Steel as of midnight Monday.

The company, which had one week to file an immediate appeal, announced on Tuesday its plan to appeal the court's seizure order.

The case stems from an October 2018 Supreme Court ruling that found four Korean men were mobilized to work for Japan Iron and Steel Co., Nippon Steel's forerunner, in the 1940s while the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule.

The company was ordered to pay the plaintiffs 100 million won ($84,000) each in damages. But it refused to pay, prompting the plaintiffs to seek the asset seizure.

Japan has taken the position that the issue of claims stemming from its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula has been settled under a bilateral accord signed alongside a 1965 treaty that established diplomatic ties.

Japan has warned that it will retaliate in the event that the business interests of Japanese firms are harmed. South Korea, for its part, is said to be considering taking tit-for-tat measures.

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