Sixty-five years since the end of World War II, and one year since the Democratic Party of Japan came to power, redress campaigns for forced labor in wartime Japan are bearing promising fruit and entering a decisive phase.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) surprised many observers last month by announcing it will start talks on compensating the 300 Korean women who were deceived as teenagers into toiling without pay at a Nagoya aircraft factory. The so-called teishintai (volunteer corps) workers lost their lawsuit at the Japan Supreme Court in 2008, but last December the Japanese government issued seven of the women refunds of a mere ¥99 for pension deposits withheld during the war.

That move led to a petition signed by more than 130,000 South Korean citizens and 100 members of the National Assembly demanding that MHI apologize to the women and properly compensate them — and to credible threats of consumer boycotts if the company fails to do so. It may prove difficult for Mitsubishi, possibly Japan's largest user of wartime forced labor, to compensate the Korean women on a "humanitarian basis" while refusing similar demands from thousands of other Korean labor conscripts or their descendants. Other Japanese firms that profited from labor conscription will likely feel renewed pressure to settle redress claims.