Subject: [cwj 7] Six Koreans sue Mitsubishi of Japan over forced labor during World War II
From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Tue, 02 May 2000 12:23:29 -0700
Seq: 7

For more info on forced labor and Japanese corporations, see

Korea Herald
May 2, 2000

Six Koreans sue Mitsubishi of Japan over forced labor during World War II 

A group of six Koreans lodged a lawsuit against Japanese giant Mitsubishi
yesterday, seeking compensation for being used as forced laborers by the
company during World War II.

Calling themselves a "gathering of Mitsubishi draftees suffering from
atomic bomb-related illnesses," the six former workers filed the lawsuit
with the Pusan District Court. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and its liaison
office in Pusan were named as defendants in the action. 

The plaintiffs, including 77-year-old Park Chang-hwan, were forced to do
hard labor in Japan during the last years of Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule
over Korea.

They demanded in the suit that Mitsubishi pay a total of 606 million won in
damages, 101 million won to each of them, for their forced labor and the
Japanese firm's negligent attitude toward their health and safety. During
the war, two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan.

The plaintiffs claimed that Mitsubishi, which provided shelter and
emergency rations for Japanese workers, exposed them to life-threatening
conditions by not supplying Korean workers with any such relief. They said
they still suffer the aftereffects of their mistreatment, including
radiation-related illnesses.

The civil suit represents the first postwar legal action filed against a
Japanese firm in a Korean court. 

After losing a similar suit in a Japanese court last year, the six
plaintiffs took the case to the Korean court on the advice of their
Japanese lawyers.

In 1995, 45 Koreans, including Park, sued the Japanese government and
Mitsubishi for compensation for physical and mental damage from their
forced labor. The Japanese court dismissed the case last year. Under the
war-era Japanese constitution, the state was not legally responsible for
damages done to individuals in the course of its activities, the court said.

The Japanese court also ruled that the statute of limitations on the
plaintiffs' claim had already expired.

Earlier in the day, the Society of Bereaved Families of the Pacific War and
the Lawyers for a Democratic Society held a news conference in Pusan to
announce that they would join forces with international victims who launch
suits against Japanese firms in American courts. The two civic groups are
backers of the six plaintiffs in the Mitsubishi lawsuit.

The groups also said they would wage campaigns to raise funds for the
lawsuit and block Mitsubishi's domestic sales activities.

In a related development, a group of U.S. lawyers representing Korean
forced laborers said they would file suit with a U.S. court this week
seeking compensation from Japanese firms for their clients. The lawyers
said they represent some 30,000 Koreans and that the number could grow to
as many as 750,000.

In a press conference in Seoul last week, Michael Choi, one of the lawyers
in the case and a partner at the Philadelphia-based law firm Choi and
Associates, also called for the Japanese government to share responsibility
for the forced labor.

"The German government recently pledged to offer the same amount (of
compensation) as German firms involved in the Holocaust, although it does
not have any direct responsibility for victims abused by German firms,"
Choi said.

Robert Swift, another lawyer in the case, dismissed Japan's claim that a
treaty it signed with Korea in 1965 frees it of any liability. He said such
treaties signed between governments have nothing to do with legal suits
involving private firms and their victims.

Updated: 05/02/2000
by Chang Jae-soon Staff reporter

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