Japan's Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu says Japan has filed protests with South Korea over a court decision in the country that approved the sale of assets seized from a Japanese firm in a damages lawsuit related to wartime labor.
The district court in Daejeon decided on Monday that part of the assets, including the patents and trademarks Mitsubishi Heavy Industries holds in South Korea, can be liquidated.
This is the first time a South Korean court has allowed the liquidation of a Japanese firm's assets in a wartime labor case.
The case follows a 2018 ruling by South Korea's Supreme Court ordering the firm to compensate South Koreans who say they or their relatives were forced to work for the company in harsh conditions during World War Two. The court issued a similar order to another Japanese firm the same year.
Motegi told reporters on Tuesday that it is extremely regrettable that the court decision came despite the South Korean side being aware of Japan's position over the wartime labor issue. He said protests were filed via diplomatic routes from Tokyo and Japan's Embassy in Seoul.
The Japanese government says any rights to claims were settled completely and finally in 1965, when Japan and South Korea normalized ties.
Motegi said the compensation orders to Japanese firms and the legal proceedings are in clear breach of international law.
He said the asset liquidation should be avoided as the move could seriously undermine bilateral ties. He indicated that South Korea should rectify the situation soon.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu echoed Motegi's view, speaking to reporters on the same day.
He said he learned that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plans to appeal the decision immediately.
He added that the government will continue urging the South Korean side to swiftly come up with a solution acceptable to Japan.