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You v. Hirohito

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 21, 2016

HE NAM YOU and KYUNG SOON KIM, for themselves and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
HIROHITO; NOBUSKE KISHI; NIPPON YUSEN KABUSHIKI KAISHA; NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD.; TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION; HITACHI, LTD.; NIPPON STEEL & SUMITOMO METAL CORPORATION; MITSUI GROUP; OKAMOTO INDUSTRIES, INC.; and SANKEI SHIMBUN CO., LTD., Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING ACTION

          WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         In this putative class action for crimes against humanity during the Second World War and for defamation, a prior order granted one defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiffs were given leave to conduct jurisdictional discovery and both sides submitted supplemental briefs. For the reasons stated below and in the prior order, this order Affirms the earlier order granting defendant’s motion to dismiss. Additionally, because plaintiffs have failed to timely serve the remaining defendants, this order Dismisses all claims against all remaining defendants.

         STATEMENT

         The details of this action have been set forth in prior orders and need not be set forth in full here (Dkt. Nos. 76, 122, 151, 164). Briefly, plaintiffs He Nam You and Kyung Soon Kim are residents and citizens of the Republic of Korea. They were abducted by the Japanese government during the Second World War, forced into servitude, and exploited as sex slaves for the benefit of Japanese soldiers at “comfort stations” in Japan. The Japanese military forced over 200, 000 Korean women to serve as sex slaves during the Second World War, few of whom survive today. Plaintiffs seek to represent a class of the surviving comfort women.

         Defendant Sankei Shimbun, Co., Ltd., is a Japanese corporation with its principal place of business in Tokyo and major offices in Osaka. Sankei Shimbun publishes a daily newspaper in Japanese, which it distributes in Japan. Plaintiffs claim that in November 2014, Sankei Shimbun published an article with allegedly defamatory statements about comfort women, and seek to pursue claims arising therefrom here in federal district court here in San Francisco.

         Sankei maintains three news-gathering branches in the United States, in New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. Those branches sublease office space from Fujisankei Communication International. Sankei also utilizes FCI’s services to handle the payment of salaries for its reporters in the United States. Sankei’s reporters in the United states are “seconded” to FCI, and have some support staff employed directly by FCI. Sankei and FCI are separate legal entities. FCI is owned by Fuji Media Holdings, a Japanese corporation that holds a minority stake in Sankei (Kondo Decl. ¶ 6; Aoki Decl. ¶ 3).

         Sankei does not, itself, deliver physical newspapers to anyone in the United States. Nineteen subscribers receive Sankei’s newspaper through an independent courier, OCS, that imports the newspaper from Japan and distributes it here. Sankei does not direct the independent company to deliver those copies (Kurosawa Dep. at 36-37, 50).

         Sankei maintains a website written in Japanese (but not in English) available to all to read for free. Sankei also owns an 80% ownership stake in Sankei Digital, which offers paid online subscriptions to Sankei’s newspaper. Approximately 88 people who subscribed via Sankei Digital paid from the United States. Sankei Digital also licenses articles to an independent third party, Rafu Shimpo, which independently selects which articles it publishes in its Los Angeles-based paper, with a focus on local stories of interest to the Japanese community in Los Angeles. Sankei does not directly generate any revenue from the United States (id. at 39, 51-52; Kondo Decl. ¶ 12).

         A prior order granted Sankei’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction (Dkt. No. 122). That order noted that plaintiffs had referred to a third-party website, Manta.com, which maintains a database of information about businesses in the United States. The Manta.com profile indicated that Sankei earned more than one million dollars in revenue from its three United States branches. Although the unverified Manta.com profile could not establish personal jurisdiction over Sankei, that order indicated it could be a basis to conduct jurisdictional discovery. Plaintiffs sought leave to conduct jurisdictional discovery regarding Sankei’s presence in the United States, which leave was granted (Dkt. No. 153). This order follows the parties’ submission of supplemental briefs detailing the results of plaintiffs’ jurisdictional discovery, which included the production of documents and a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition (Dkt. Nos. 173, 176).

         ANALYSIS

         1. Sankei.

         Plaintiffs contend that jurisdictional discovery revealed facts that support the exercise of personal jurisdiction over Sankei by way of either general or specific jurisdiction. This order addresses the new facts revealed through discovery.

         A. ...


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