6 Wartime Forced Laborers File Suit against Japanese Firm

Article excerpt

Six Koreans who were forced to work for Japan during World War II, have launched a court battle against a Japanese industrial giant, requesting compensations for their pain and sacrifice during Japan's occupation of Korea.

The forced laborers filed a lawsuit with a district court in Pusan against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. on Monday, demanding 101 million won each in compensation.

The litigation is drawing keen attention because the compensation lawsuit is the first of its kind in Korea.

The plaintiffs were identified as Park Chang-hwan, Lee Kun-mok, Lee Byong-mok, Kim Don-young, Chung Chang-hee and Chung Chang-hwa, who are all in their late 70s or early 80s.

The wartime victims claimed that they were conscripted as forced laborers by Japan during the war to work for Mitsubishi's munitions factories in Hiroshima for about 10 months until 1945, when Japan was defeated by the Allied Forces.

They claimed that they were exposed to severe radiation when the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the Japanese city in the final days of the World War II.

Park Chang-hwan, 77, said he and the other plaintiffs suffered illnesses in the years following the bombing. He said they seek damages for unpaid wages and compensation.

One of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs said that the victims are also waging court battles in Japan, appealing a ruling by a Hiroshima court in March 1998 that the statute of limitation for their 606 million won case has already expired.

The Japanese court said that under the war-era Japanese constitution, the state was not legally responsible for damages done to individuals in the course of its activities.

Choi Bong-tae, an attorney for Samil Law Firm in Taegu City, decided to represent the former forced laborers for free, with the view that crimes against humanity is not subject to the statute of limitation in accordance with international laws and practices. …