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South Korea's Supreme Court has ordered a Japanese company to pay 4 Korean men 88 thousand dollars each.

The former Ford Motor Co. executive told reporters Monday in Seoul that he would like to hold talks with North Korea's vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui as soon as possible, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

But Tuesday's decision by South Korea's top court found that the right of the plaintiffs to file claims as individuals had not expired, despite the accord with Japan.

Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kotaro Nogami told a news conference that if Seoul did not respond promptly, Tokyo would consider its options, including worldwide arbitration. The motion was approved in 2012 and the Thursday ruling rejects the final appeal by Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal.

If Nippon Steel refuses to compensate, the plaintiffs could request a seizure of the company's property in South Korea, which may result in an exit of some Japanese businesses, a cut in investment and a flare-up in anti-Japanese sentiment.

Lee Chun-sik, 94, the only survivor among four Korean laborers who filed suit against a Japanese steel company for unpaid wages during Japan's colonization of the Korean Peninsula in the early 20th century, waves to the media in Seoul on Tuesday after Korea's Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering the company to pay 100 million won ($87,720) to each.

Nippon Steel said it would carefully review the court decision, taking into account the Japanese government's response. Among the other Japanese firms that have lost cases in lower courts in South Korea are Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Hitachi Zosen Corp.

Responding to Tuesday's verdict, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said that the compensation order was "unthinkable".

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In a statement, Kono also said Japan may take the matter to the relevant global court.

The North is increasingly raising complaints with South Korea for a lack of progress on inter-Korean projects, which can not dramatically proceed without the lifting of sanctions.

Previous cases they had brought in Japan were dismissed on the grounds their right to reparation was terminated by a 1965 treaty normalising diplomatic ties between the countries.

Kono said the government hopes Japanese nationals and companies will not be subjected to detrimental treatment as a result of the ruling, but stopped short of expanding on what kind of actions he believes should be taken.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk said Tokyo and Seoul "should gather wisdom" to prevent the ruling from negatively affecting their relations.

At that time, the court sent back such compensation cases, including Nippon Steel's case, to Seoul High Court.

Some Seoul officials and experts fear the court's decision, final and binding, could damage bilateral relations.

Over the lawsuit, the top court faced allegations of delaying reaching a ruling for five years as wished by the administration of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who was concerned about deterioration in the bilateral relationship.


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