SEOUL, The Japanese government assured the nation's business community here Thursday that it won't budge on a recent Seoul court ruling in favor of victims of forced labor during World War II.

The Japanese Embassy in Seoul convened a meeting with the representatives of Japanese firms operating in South Korea to deliver its position on the issue. The meeting came amid deepened diplomatic stand-offs between the neighboring countries in the wake of the Supreme Court's verdict on Oct. 30.

In response, South Korea also said it will closely monitor Japan's move and seek "appropriate" countermeasures.

Concluding a lawsuit filed by four South Korean victims nearly 14 years ago, the court acknowledged their individual rights to compensation for Japan's crime against humanity when Korea was under its brutal colonial rule from 1910-45. It ordered Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp., a Japanese steelmaker, to pay each victim 100 million won (US$88,500).

The ruling dealt a blow to Japan's view that all reparation issues related to the colonization were resolved in a 1965 state-to-state deal to normalize bilateral diplomatic relations. It may also affect similar suits filed by Koreans against Japan's wartime wrongdoings.

"The Japanese government's consistent position, as stated in various opportunities, is that (the matter) was completely and finally settled in the 1965 accord," Kohei Maruyama, a minister at the embassy, said at the opening of the session open to media.

He added his government will continue to cope with the situation via close cooperation with the civilian sector.

More than 100 representatives from around 70 Japanese companies belonging to the Seoul Japan Club attended the forum. It was not confirmed immediately whether those from firms involved in related lawsuits took part.

The minister reaffirmed Foreign Minister Taro Kono's statement urging the South Korean government to handle the reparation issue.

Seoul's foreign ministry reiterated the government's position to respect the court decision, which shouldn't be tied with diplomacy.

"Our government will keep a close eye on Japan's relevant move and take appropriate measures," the ministry's spokesman Noh Kyu-duk said at a press briefing.

He noted that Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon earlier expressed regret over Japanese leaders' strongly worded criticism of the ruling.

In the Nov. 7 statement, Lee said it's the foundation of democracy for an administration to admit an independent court ruling.

Source: Yonhap News Agency