Eleven Chinese forced to work as slave laborers for the Japanese construction giant Kajima Corp. during World War II went to court Wednesday seeking compensation for their suffering.
The action, filed in Tokyo District Court, is the first by Chinese seeking wartime compensation from the Japanese. The plaintiffs, who have sought reparations since 1989, are asking for $65,000 each. Hearings are to begin later this year.
Kajima has apologized for its wartime brutality but has refused to pay any compensation.
The 11 men were among 1,000 Chinese assigned to a Kajima project to relocate a river in Hanaoka in northern Japan. Of those, 418 people died.
Takashi Niimi, a lawyer representing the Chinese, said Kajima used the forced laborers in violation of international laws for its own profit, causing them “unbearable pain.”
Kajima said in a statement: “Our understanding is that we bear no legal responsibility because the incident occurred in the social confusion toward the end of the war.”
The Japanese military systematically abducted Chinese during World War II and forced them to work for Japanese companies to make up for a labor shortage at home.