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Lawyers in South Korean forced labour case set deadline for Nippon Steel response

Lawyers in South Korean forced labour case set deadline for Nippon Steel response
A projection shows an image of a plaintiff who was forced to work for Japanese firms during World War Two and seeks compensation during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon   -   Copyright  KIM KYUNG-HOON(Reuters)
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By Malcolm Foster

TOKYO (Reuters) – Lawyers representing South Korean plaintiffs in a World War Two forced labour court case against Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. have set a Dec. 24 deadline for the firm to show willingness to discuss a court verdict on compensation.

If Nippon Steel fails to respond, the lawyers, who spoke after being denied a meeting with company officials for a second time on Tuesday, said they would start procedures to seize its South Korean assets.

Tuesday’s incident stemmed from a ruling by South Korea’s Supreme Court late in October that Nippon Steel must pay 100 million won (70,592.82 pounds) to each of four South Koreans for forced labour during the war.

The Japanese government has denounced the verdict, saying all wartime reparations were dealt with in a 1965 treaty that normalized ties between the two nations.

At the time of the ruling, Nippon Steel called it “extremely regrettable”, but added that it would review the decision carefully in considering further steps.

On Tuesday, the lawyers visited Nippon Steel’s Tokyo headquarters for a second time, only to be turned away at reception, said Lim Jae-sung, one of the attorneys.

The lawyers left documents at the reception regarding the case, Lim told a briefing at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

Lim said two options for seizing Nippon Steel’s assets include shares of PNR, a joint venture between Nippon Steel and South Korean steel company POSCO, and intellectual property the company owns in South Korea.

Nippon Steel confirmed that it refused to meet the lawyers because its stance has not changed, a company spokeswoman said, adding that the company had received a letter, although she did not comment on the contents.

Asked about the Dec. 24 deadline, the spokeswoman said the company would consult the Japanese government and take appropriate action.

(Reporting and writing by Malcolm Foster; Additional reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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