A Seoul court on Monday dismissed a damages suit against 16 Japanese firms, filed in 2015 by a total of 84 South Korean victims who were forced into heavy labour without pay during the World War II.
The Seoul Central District Court dismissed the suit against the Japanese companies, including Nippon Steel, Nissan Chemical and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, reports Xinhua news agency.
It was the biggest case among other similar damages suits lodged by the South Korean forced labour victims.
The dismissal is a decision made without any trial because of the failure to meet litigation requirements, equivalent to a ruling against the plaintiffs.
The court ruled that the individual right to damages cannot be seen as being terminated or waived, but it said the individual right cannot be exercised through lawsuits due to the 1965 South Korea-Japan treaty.
The ruling was in a contrast to the country’s top court ruling in October 2018, in which the Supreme Court ordered Nippon Steel to pay 100 million won ($89,900) to each of the four South Korean victims.
Japan claimed that all colonial-era issues were settled through the 1965 treaty that normalised diplomatic relations between South Korea and Japan following the Imperial Japan’s colonisation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
However, the South Korean top court said the state-to-state deal did not involve the individual right to reparation.