• Kyodo

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A group of 13 former World War II forced laborers and descendents from China on Friday filed a lawsuit seeking ¥5.5 million damages per victim and an apology from the Japanese government over their treatment, their legal agents said.

Launching the action at the Osaka District Court, the plaintiffs in their letter of claim said Japan had failed to protect them during the war.

The claims relate to a labor camp for miners in Akita Prefecture and a dockyard in the city of Osaka.

Nine of the 13 relate to a major uprising that occurred at the Hanaoka mining camp in Akita in 1945, which claimed the lives of more than 400 workers.

Their legal agents said the lawsuit was timed to coincide with the upcoming 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

Zhang Guangxun, one of two surviving plaintiffs, was sent to the Hanaoka camp operated by contractor Kajima Gumi (now Kajima Corp.) after he was captured in battle in 1943 and sent to Japan at the age of 16.

The major Japanese construction company and a separate group of plaintiffs reached an out-of-court settlement in 2000. They agreed to set up a ¥500 million fund to compensate the Chinese victims of the POW camp.

The remaining 11 plaintiffs said their fathers and grandfathers were conscripted as forced workers.

Similar suits have been filed against the Japanese government in the past.

But their rulings followed a Supreme Court judgment in 2007 that Chinese individuals have no right to demand war reparations from Japan as the right was forfeited under a postwar agreement between Japan and China.