HONG KONG — The Japanese corporation Mitsubishi Materials apologized on Wednesday to Chinese workers who were forced to work in its predecessor company’s mines during World War II, and it signed an agreement in Beijing to compensate three surviving former laborers.
The agreement represents a rare step toward alleviating lingering anger over Japan’s brutal occupation of China. “The Second World War ended 70 years ago, and our forced labor case today has finally reached a solution,” one of the former laborers, Yan Yucheng, 87, told reporters after the signing. “This is a great victory.”
Nearly 40,000 Chinese men were taken to Japan in the final years of World War II and forced to work in slavelike conditions for 35 companies. Roughly one in five died because of maltreatment.
Under the agreement with Mitsubishi Materials, the three survivors will each receive 100,000 renminbi, or about $15,000. A survey by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimated that 3,765 Chinese were forced to work for the company, then known as Mitsubishi Mining Corporation.
The apology and compensation are not the first between a Japanese company and Chinese workers. In 2000 the Kajima Corporation, a construction company, paid a settlement to survivors and families of deceased workers. In 2009 Nishimatsu Construction also apologized and paid compensation.
South Korean courts have ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation to Koreans who were forced to work during the war.
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