A district court in South Korea has ordered the sale of a patent held by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. for forced wartime labor compensation to a Korean woman, a lawyer for the plaintiff said Monday.
The order, dated April 29, comes on top of a similar ruling by the same court in Daejeon in the central part of the country to two other plaintiffs in September concerning a patent and trademark held by the Japanese manufacturer but seized by the court.
The district court orders were based on a South Korean Supreme Court ruling in 2018 that ordered Mitsubishi Heavy to pay damages to a group of women for their labor during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The company has since appealed the court order for the two plaintiffs to the Supreme Court.
In 2018, the top court ordered another Japanese company, Nippon Steel Corp., to compensate Korean plaintiffs over forced labor during the colonial rule. Nippon Steel has appealed a December 2021 court order to sell its assets to pay for damages awarded to the plaintiffs.
Both companies have refused to comply with the ruling, with the Japanese government taking the position that issues of claims stemming from the colonial period have been settled under a bilateral agreement signed alongside the 1965 treaty that normalized ties between the two countries.
Plaintiffs in both cases are taking steps to see the liquidation of the corporate assets they have seized for them. But the Japanese government is considering taking retaliatory measures if the seized assets are sold and cause harm to the Japanese companies.
The wartime labor rulings in the Supreme Court sharply worsened Japan-South Korea ties, which have long been overshadowed by disputes stemming from the colonial rule, including the issue of "comfort women" who were procured for Japan's wartime military brothels.
The incoming South Korean president, Yoon Suk Yeol, has indicated the South Korean side understands Japan's worries and that the two countries should seek a solution together.