|Lee Chun-sik, the only surviving plaintiff of a suit against Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal for forced labor speaks after the Supreme Court ruled for the Japanese company to pay each of the plaintiffs 100 million won, at the court in Seoul, Oct. 30. / Korea Times file|
By Kim Bo-eun
The government is mulling over whether to accept Japan's request for talks on Supreme Court rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor under Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule.
Japan's request for "diplomatic discussions" came Thursday, after a local court approved a request from plaintiffs to seize assets of Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal (NSSM).
The request for the asset seizure was made, as the company refused to comply with the ruling.
The foreign ministry said it would "thoroughly review" Japan's request for talks.
The talks would be focused on forced labor rulings. After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of plaintiffs in the trial involving NSSM on Oct. 30 last year, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was also ordered to compensate victims of forced labor.
Officials from Seoul and Tokyo's foreign ministries have been holding meetings on comprehensive bilateral affairs.
There are views that it may be better for South Korea to refuse to hold talks limited to the forced labor rulings, and opt for the existing meetings on comprehensive affairs to address the issue, as the latter will be able to discuss other matters such as the disputed 2015 sex slave deal as well.
Meanwhile, a local daily reported that Mitsubishi will meet with the legal representatives of the plaintiffs of its case. Mitsubishi reportedly agreed to do so after the plaintiffs' legal representatives requested the meeting to discuss the compensation ruling.
This is a different approach from NSSM. Mitsubishi may have agreed to the meeting based on notifications that requests for seizure of its assets in South Korea would be made if the company did not engage in the issue.
On the forced labor ruling matter, President Moon Jae-in in his New Year press conference said Japan should respect South Korea's Supreme Court's ruling, and refrain from making it into a political issue. He said the Japanese government should respect the judiciary.