National / Politics

Mitsubishi Materials near to finalizing compensation fund for wartime forced labor in China

Kyodo

Mitsubishi Materials Corp. is in the final stages of setting up a fund that will be used to pay compensation to thousands of Chinese people forced to labor in Japan during World War II, it was learned Sunday.

The fund represents the final hurdle in a settlement that the Japanese company reached with the main groups of Chinese claimants in June 2016.

Under the agreement, Mitsubishi Materials will pay 100,000 yuan (about $15,000) to each of the victims and their families.

In accordance with the settlement, the fund will manage the money paid from the company to the 3,765 victims, and confirm eligibility for bereaved families with inheritance rights.

The company aims to have the fund up and running by the end of the current year, which marks the 40th anniversary of the peace and friendship treaty between Japan and China, according to sources close to the arrangements.

The fund, to be called the Historical Human Rights Peace Fund, will be jointly launched by Japan and China, the sources also said. Given the number of victims, the total settlement will reach into tens of millions of dollars.

Those from China forced to work in Japan by Mitsubishi Materials, which was known at the time as Mitsubishi Mining Corp., labored at coal mines. They were among some 39,000 Chinese nationals brought to the country against their will between 1943 and 1945 in line with a Japanese government decision to use them to compensate for a shortage of domestic labor.

Due to deprivation and the conditions of their work, 6,830 of them died. Starting in the 1990s, Chinese survivors of forced labor and their families filed a series of compensation lawsuits against the Japanese government and firms involved.

So far, Mitsubishi Materials has paid compensation to around 10 survivors. But as an organization to handle investigations regarding inheritance rights has yet to be established, no payments have been made to bereaved families.

The discharge of those payments is likely to strongly influence other postwar compensation cases.

In South Korea last week, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that ordered a Japanese steel firm to pay compensation to former forced laborers. The development brings into sharp contrast the differing approaches to wartime compensation in China and South Korea.

According to sources familiar with Sino-Japan relations, a civic organization on the Chinese side has so far identified more than 1,000 bereaved families.

Besides tracking down survivors and bereaved families whose whereabouts are unknown, Mitsubishi Materials also agreed to construct memorials at the sites where the company’s mines were located and organize memorial ceremonies.

In the initial disbursement, Mitsubishi Materials is to pay ¥100 million (about $883,000) to cover the cost of constructing memorials and ¥200 million to fund probes into those who were forced into labor during the war but have not been officially accounted for in records.

In the settlement agreement, Mitsubishi Materials expressed “painful reflection” and pledged to set up the fund for a “permanent, comprehensive solution” of the forced labor issue and “pass on the facts to future generations” by building memorials.

However, the bereaved families of some victims have indicated that they plan to continue litigation against Mitsubishi Materials, with one lawyer saying that the plaintiffs represented in the case number over 100.

After the end of World War II in 1945, Japan’s Foreign Ministry compiled an investigative report on Chinese forced labor that listed the names of all Chinese males who were brought to Japan.