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Forced labor victim dies without resolution to suit

Lee Choon-myeon, a victim of forced labor during Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula during the first half of 20th century, died Saturday.

According to the Center for Historical Truth and Justice, Lee passed away in the early hours of Saturday. She was 88 years old. 

Lee Choon-myeon. (Yonhap)
Lee Choon-myeon. (Yonhap)

Lee’s suit seeking compensation from Japan’s Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp. is pending at the Supreme Court. Lee’s surviving family members plan to continue the suit.

In 1944, Lee, then 13, began working for the company after being told she would be sent to school and be paid wages if she works as part of Japan’s labor force in Korea.

However, she was forced to work 10 to 12 hours a day for six days a week at one of the company’s factories.

Lee filed a suit seeking compensation of 100 million won ($85,000) from Fujikoshi in May 2015. In 2017, a South Korean court ruled in favor of Lee, but Fujikoshi appealed, claiming that individual rights to seek compensation had been nullified by the 1965 treaty that normalized Korea-Japan relations.

Although Lee won the appeal in January, the Japanese firm appealed again, taking the case to the Supreme Court.

By Choi He-suk (