March 26, 2023

South Korean Court Tells Japanese Company to Pay for Forced Labor

The high court in Busan, the port city in southeastern South Korea, ordered the Japanese company to pay $71,800 to each of the five Koreans.

It was the second such ruling this month. On July 10, the Seoul High Court ordered Nippon Steel Sumitomo Metal Corp. of Japan to pay $89,800 to each of four South Korean plaintiffs in unpaid salaries and compensation for forced labor during the colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.

Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi planned to appeal the decisions.

The Busan court said in its ruling that Mitsubishi forced the South Korean plaintiffs to “toil in poor conditions in Hiroshima and yet failed to pay wages,” and “did not provide proper shelters or food after the dropping of an atomic bomb” there in 1945.

The five plaintiffs in the Mitsubishi case were all deceased and their families represented them.

The rulings against Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi were the first in favor of South Koreans in a 16-year-old legal battle waged in Japan and South Korea, and it could trigger similar lawsuits from other victims or their families. At least 1.2 million Koreans were forced to work for Japan’s war efforts in Japan, China and elsewhere, according to historians here.

“While we have not confirmed the details of the ruling, we understand that all such claims between the two countries, including compensation for interned laborers, have been completely and conclusively settled under official state agreements,” a spokesman for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said in a statement.

“A ruling that goes against these agreements has no legitimacy and is truly regrettable,” he said.

South Korean victims first filed compensation lawsuits in Japan in 1997. Japan’s top court ruled against them in 2005, saying that the issue of compensation for forced labor was closed under the 1965 treaty that normalized diplomatic ties between Japan and South Korea. The government in Tokyo maintained the same position.

The victims had suffered setbacks in their lawsuits in South Korea, as the local judges honored the rulings by the Japanese courts. But in a landmark decision in May last year, South Korea’s Supreme Court overturned their rulings and sent the cases back to the lower courts, saying that the Japanese courts’ verdicts went against the constitution of South Korea and international legal norms.

“We have two different rulings on the same cases in two different countries,” said Chang Wan-ick, a lawyer and leading advocate for South Korean victims. “The civilized societies around the world will know which ruling is right: Mobilizing civilians for forced labor for a war of aggression is wrong.”

If the rulings against Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi are upheld by the Supreme Court in South Korea and the Japanese companies still refuse to compensate the plantiffs, the victims could try to have the Japanese companies’ assets in South Korea confiscated — a move that would certainly escalate into a diplomatic spat.

On Tuesday, the South Korean bar association urged the Japanese companies and Tokyo and Seoul to avoid such a confrontation by establishing a foundation to compensate the victims and promote “historical reconciliation.”

The Foreign Ministry of South Korea said it was closely monitoring the civil cases.

About 300 Japanese companies currently in operation were believed to have used forced labor during the colonial period, according to South Korean officials.

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Media Decoder Blog: Activist Group Opposing Antipiracy Bill Posts Information on Media Executives

The online activist group known as Anonymous, which has taken aim at opponents of the Occupy Wall Street movement and businesses that stopped providing services to WikiLeaks, has set its sights on a new adversary: media executives.

In protest of antipiracy legislation currently being considered by Congress, the collective has posted online documents that reveal personal information about Jeffrey L. Bewkes, chairman and chief executive of Time Warner, and Sumner M. Redstone, who controls Viacom and the CBS Corporation. Those companies, like almost every major media and entertainment consort, have championed the Stop Online Piracy Act, the House of Representatives bill, known as SOPA, and its related Senate bill, called Protect I.P.

The documents, culled from various databases, included Mr. Bewkes’s home addresses and phone numbers, and encouraged users to bombard the company and its executives with e-mails, faxes and phone calls. Mr. Bewkes has received intimidating phone calls and a barrage of e-mails, according to supporters of the legislation who have knowledge about the company but are not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The documents also included the corporate contact information of a range of companies including NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Walt Disney Company. A Disney spokeswoman said neither the company nor its chief executive, Robert A. Iger, had received threats. Time Warner declined to comment.

The file on Mr. Redstone has details about his family, home and career but does not include private contact information. A Viacom spokeswoman declined to comment.

Anonymous, a loosely organized collective of so-called “hacktivists,” has called its effort “Operation Hiroshima.” It began on Jan. 1, when the group dropped a trove of documents on Web sites that facilitate anonymous publishing, like and Such sites are often used in protest movements like Occupy Wall Street.

The Operation Hiroshima document drop also included information about political figures including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, among other data on corporations and government entities the group opposes.

“They should feel threatened,” said Barrett Brown, a Dallas-based online activist who has worked with Anonymous, referring to backers of the legislation. “The idea is to put pressure on the politicians and companies supporting it.”

The online movement underscores how heated the arguments have become over a piece of proposed Internet government regulation. Media companies say they believe the legislation, which has bipartisan support, will crack down on illicit downloads of movies, music and television, especially from overseas Web sites.

The technology industry, including giants like Google and Yahoo, and opponents of Internet regulation say the bills would censor the Internet, stifle free speech and give the United States government too much power to regulate and shut down Web sites.

Both sides have spent millions on lobbying in Washington. But at the grass-roots level, the issue has galvanized Internet activists, who lack lobbying power but have used computer skills to promote the cause among the online community.

“You take our speech, you take our Internet, you take our Bill of Rights, you take our Constitution, we fight back,” said a monotone voice on a YouTube video posted by Anonymous before the Operation Hiroshima document drop (known as a “d0x” in Internet parlance).

Lawmakers and their aides have also been targets. A photograph of a 25-year-old aide who works in the House Judiciary Committee was superimposed into pornography by a group related to Anonymous, according to another aide who was briefed on security threats to lawmakers and their staffs.

“Why can’t they just hire a lobbyist like everyone else?” this aide said.

The vast majority of SOPA opponents protest through legitimate means online. Hundreds of legitimate Web sites have encouraged blackouts and boycotts to protest the legislation. According to, more than 10,000 users have changed their Twitter profile pictures to a “Stop SOPA” badge.

“The more outrage expressed on the Internet in the coming days, the better,” said Fred Wilson, a managing partner at Union Square Ventures, a venture capital firm and early investor in Twitter. He said he did not condone threats or “any kind of intimidation” by hackers.

Last month introduced a function that made the words on documents gradually fade away. As they did, a pop-up prompted users to call or write their representatives. “Don’t let the Internet vanish before your eyes,” it read.

The tactics have succeeded in some cases. Initially a supporter, the Web hosting company Go Daddy reversed its position on SOPA after Wikipedia and thousands of other Web sites said they would withdraw their domains from the service. “Go Daddy will support it when and if the Internet community supports it,” Warren Adelman, Go Daddy’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Companies like Time Warner, which owns HBO, CNN and the Warner Brothers studio, and Viacom, which owns MTV and the Paramount studio, have security teams with extensive experience, but they aren’t necessarily trained in online threats, said Josh Shaul, chief technology officer at Application Security Inc., a New York-based provider of database security software.

“When it comes to tracking down these folks who are Anonymous, they’re in way over their head,” Mr. Shaul said. “It’s easy to get something taken off a Web site, but it’s impossible to erase things off the Internet.”

Less than a week after the Operation Hiroshima documents were posted, a Twitter message that links to Mr. Bewkes’s home phone numbers and addresses, annual income and wife’s name and age had proliferated across the Internet. The message included #OpHiroshima, the shortened Twitter code for the effort.

Anonymous is not a formal group, but a nebulous collection of global activists who use computer skills to support political causes. For example, the collective demanded a full Christmas dinner for Pvt. Bradley Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking documents to WikiLeaks.

Last month, hackers associated with Anonymous published a trove of e-mail addresses and the personal information of subscribers of Stratfor, a security group based in Austin, Tex. A splinter group affiliated with Anonymous last year attacked the Sony Corporation, shutting down its PlayStation online network. The attack cost the company around $171 million, according to industry estimates.

Movements like Anonymous often squabble among themselves, but SOPA is a uniquely unifying cause, said Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University who is an expert on  hacking. To these activists, she said, “Internet freedom is not controversial.”

When it first emerged around 2005, Anonymous largely focused on pranks or “lulz” (a variation on LOL, the Internet abbreviation of laughing out loud). During the Arab Spring last year, hackers affiliated with Anonymous helped get Twitter messages and blog posts out of Tunisia and Egypt as the government tried to block Internet access.

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