Japan Weighs Action to Avoid Seizure of Steel Assets in S. Korea

(Bloomberg) -- Japan will consider countermeasures to protect Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. assets from seizure in South Korea sought in response to a wartime forced-labor complaint, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

It’s “very regrettable that former workers from the Korean Peninsula are taking action for seizing the assets,” Abe told national broadcaster NHK’s “Sunday Debate” program, adding that he has “requested relevant departments to study specific measures based on international law.”

A 1965 treaty between the countries resolved all matters regarding compensation claims, Abe said Sunday. Still, South Korea has argued that Japan hasn’t atoned enough for its 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

Lawyers representing South Koreans who were forced into labor applied to seize Nippon Steel’s local assets, the Associated Press reported Thursday. A court in the city of Pohang may decide in two or three weeks whether to accept the request to seize the 2.34 million shares Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. holds in its joint venture with South Korean steelmaker Posco that are worth about $9.7 million, AP said.

The country’s supreme court in separate rulings in October and November deemed that Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. were liable to pay compensation in court cases dating back to World War II. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has also backed the ruling.

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