The South Korean government must pay 80 million Won ($70,700) to three men who were enslaved on salt farms in remote islands off the country’s southwest coast for several years, a court ruled on Friday.
The Seoul High Court said the government was responsible for their ordeals because local officials and police failed to properly monitor their living and working conditions.
The court said the government should pay 30 million won ($26,500) each to two of the men and 20 million won (USD 17,700) to the third plaintiff.
More than 60 slaves, most of them with intellectual disabilities, were rescued from the islands following an investigation led by mainland police in 2014.
The Associated Press documented some of their stories in a yearlong investigation.
Dozens of farm owners and job brokers were indicted, but no police or officials were punished despite allegations some knew about slavery.
Eight former slaves sued the government last year, seeking a combined 240 million won ($212,000) in damages.
But the Seoul Central District Court in September last year awarded compensation to only one of them, saying that the government’s responsibility was unclear in the other seven cases.
Three of the plaintiffs who were rejected appealed to the high court.
Lawsuits against the government in human rights cases are rarely successful in South Korea because the burden of proof in non-criminal cases is entirely on the plaintiffs, who often lack information or resources.