The apex court, while ratifying a 2015 decision by a Seoul court, ordered Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal to pay a compensation of 400 million won (around $350,000) to four South Koreans, only one of whom is still alive, Efe news reported.
The decision was a further setback to bilateral ties that have been severely strained owing to unresolved issues from the time of Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry termed the verdict “totally unacceptable” and said it violated an earlier bilateral agreement regarding compensation for colonization. The ministry said it would take the case before international courts.
There were approximately 70 Japanese firms, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Yokohama Rubber, who had been implicated in similar cases of forced labour during the Second World War.
During its occupation of the Korean peninsula during the Second World War, the Japanese empire had forcefully recruited hundreds of thousands of Koreans to work in its defence industry.