Japan considers economic retaliation in row with South Korea

Tokyo threatens tariffs, visa bans, bank transfers, after Korean court orders asset seizure of Japanese company for WWII conscripted labor

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A diplomatic row is heating up between Japan and South Korea over the issue of conscripted labor during World War II, which threatens to spiral out of control.

A court in South Korea has called for the seizure of assets from the Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corporation after a ruling in 2018 which called for individual compensation for charges of conscripted labor in the first half of the 20th century.

The Japanese corporation has refused to comply, claiming the matter was settled in a 1965 diplomatic accord that established ties between the two countries. The company’s refusal to provide compensation has resulted in the court ordered asset seizure.

In response, this week Tokyo threatened to impose tariffs on certain products from South Korea, and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday stating that “banning visas and suspending money transfers” to South Korea are possible measures the government could take in retaliation to the seizure of Nippon Steel assets.

Tokyo says the ruling in the South Korean court is unjustified, and that the matter was settled decades ago. The Japanese government also likely feels pressure to stop the issue from escalating to target other corporations, potentially in other nations like Taiwan or the Philippines.

Japan Today reports that a similar request to seize the assets of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has already been filed in the Seoul Central Government.

However, South Korea and Japan have acted quickly to address the disagreements with working-level discussion hastily arranged for Thursday, March 14 reports Yonhap.