Seoul court rejects lawsuit over wartime labor

A district court in Seoul has dismissed a damages suit brought by South Koreans who say they were forced to work for Japanese companies during World War Two.

A total of 85 former workers and their relatives launched the lawsuit against 16 Japanese firms in 2015. They are demanding compensation of 100 million won, or about 90,000 dollars, each.

The Seoul Central District Court ruled on Monday that the plaintiffs cannot claim the legal right to damages from Japan as individuals.

This is the first time a South Korean court has rejected a lawsuit of this kind since a ruling in 2018. That's when the country's supreme court acknowledged individual rights to claim damages and ordered a Japanese company to pay.

Japan's government maintains that the right to claim compensation was settled completely and finally in a 1965 agreement, when the two nations normalized ties.

Monday's ruling said if the court upheld the claim, it would be against the principles of international law.

The plaintiffs say they intend to immediately appeal the ruling.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu told reporters on Monday that the government will continue to closely watch developments on the issue.

Kato said in order to solve bilateral pending issues, it's important that South Korea deal with them responsibly.