Chinese forced laborers file suit against Mitsubishi

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Chinese forced laborers file suit against Mitsubishi

A group of more than 100 Chinese victims of forced labor during World War II and their families yesterday filed a lawsuit, with the support of a group of Korean victims and attorneys as a message of solidarity on the issue, to seek compensation from major Japanese companies.

The plaintiffs, along with their relatives, lawyers and the Korean victims, held a commemorative ceremony yesterday at a park in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei Province in northern China, to remember those forced into work during the war. Afterward, they filed their suit with a high court in Heibei against Mitsubishi Materials, one of the companies involved in coercing and recruiting Chinese laborers.

According to Chinese representatives, the group demanded a total compensation of 227 million yuan ($36 million) and a formal apology from the company.

That is about an estimated 2 million yuan for each victim and 1.5 million yuan for the families of those who have already passed away. “The Korean and Chinese victims have embarked on a truly significant joint plan” on the issue of forced labor, representatives for the Korean and Chinese victims said in a joint statement.

The Chinese and Korean parties plan to continue to collaborate and will hold a forum to discuss forced labor during Japanese colonial rule, in which Korean attorneys can shed light of their experiences and raise similar lawsuits against Japanese entities.

This is the latest in a series of legal actions taken by Korean and Chinese citizens demanding that the Japanese corporations involved in forced wartime labor pay up.

In a landmark decision in May 2012, Korea’s Supreme Court declared that former laborers and bereaved family members were entitled to seek individual compensation from Japanese companies. In July 2013, the Seoul High Court ordered the Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, previously the Nippon Steel Corporation, to pay four of its former workers 100 million won ($94,587) each in overdue salary and damages.

Another appellate ruling by the Busan High Court the same month ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate the families of five victims 80 million won. Last November, the Gwangju District Court also ordered Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to pay 150 million won in compensation to five victims and their families.

The Japanese government claims that all wartime compensation issues were resolved in a previous normalization treaty.

By comparison, it was only on March 18 that a Beijing court accepted the first lawsuit regarding compensation for damages incurred during World War II. A group of about 40 victims and their relatives demanded that the Mitsubishi Materials Corporation and Nippon Coke & Engineering Company, formerly known as Mitsui Mining Company, compensate each worker $161,000.

The suit was followed by a flurry of other lawsuits, including one on March 26 filed in a Hebei court by a group of 19 Chinese plaintiffs that demanded the Japanese government and Mitsubishi Materials and Nippon Coke & Engineering issue a formal apology and pay each victim $290,000.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]


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