S.Korea top court upholds rulings for Japan firm to pay wartime labor damages

South Korea's top court has upheld lower court rulings ordering another Japanese firm to pay damages to plaintiffs who sued over wartime labor.

The Supreme Court on Thursday handed down rulings in three lawsuits against Nachi-Fujikoshi, a machinery maker based in Toyama Prefecture, central Japan.

The plaintiffs were South Korean former workers who said they were forced to work for the company during World War Two, as well as bereaved family members of workers.

The lower courts had ruled in the plaintiffs' favor and ordered Nachi-Fujikoshi to pay damages, prompting the company to appeal to the top court.

With the appeal's rejection, the compensation order has been finalized.

The Japanese government says the issue of the right to claim compensation was settled completely and finally under a bilateral agreement in 1965, when the two countries normalized ties.

But South Korea's Supreme Court said the right of individuals to seek compensation is not covered in the deal.

The top court has so far ordered Japanese companies to pay damages in 12 wartime labor disputes.

A group supporting the plaintiffs says about 60 similar cases are pending in the lower courts, and the top court may make similar rulings in these cases.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hayashi Yoshimasa told reporters that Thursday's rulings clearly go against the 1965 agreement, calling them extremely regrettable and totally unacceptable.

He said his government has lodged a protest with South Korea.

He said the South Korean government had stated that a government-affiliated foundation would pay damages in place of Japanese firms under a program announced in March last year.

Hayashi said he expects Seoul to use the measure to deal with the court rulings.