The Japanese government is mulling over seizing the assets of Korean companies in Japan if the assets owned by Japanese companies in Korea are seized according to the South Korean top court’s rulings ordering them to pay compensation to the Korean victims of forced labor. “We are urging the Korean government to take measures to prevent the seizure from happening,” Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said. Japan’s response to the South Korean top court’s rulings, ordering Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation and Mitsubishi to pay compensation to Koreans forced into labor during Japan’s colonial rule could intensify a diplomatic row between the two countries.
The Japanese government says that its argument is based on the countermeasures clause in the draft bill of the international law of state responsibility drew up by the UN International Law Commission in 2001. The clause acknowledges the right to take countermeasures equivalent to damage for actions that violate the international law. But for Japan to consider taking such a touch measure even when the Korean government has not taken measures to seize the assets of Japanese companies is like pretending to be the victim when actually it is the perpetrator.
The Japanese government reportedly is well aware that there are many barriers for Korea to actually seize the assets of Japanese companies. It appears the Japanese foreign minister’s comment is intended to put pressure on the Korean government to push the top court to rule in favor of Japanese companies in the remaining 12 cases concerning compensation for wartime forced laborers. It can be seen as interfering in internal affairs of Korea.
Japan has taken regressive actions after the South Korean top court’s ruling. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denied the forced labor of Koreans and issued a guideline, ordering the Japanese companies in question not to compensate the victims for damage or come to a settlement with them. Japan hasn't made any measures to reduce the suffering of the victims.
In 2009, the Japanese government paid a mere 99 yen (1,277 won) as a welfare pension refund to the victims, who won the lawsuit against Mitsubishi this time, failing to reflect the inflationary value of the amount the victims had originally paid. The Japanese government should put heads together with the Korean government to find a solution unless what it intends to do is to insult the victims once again.