Korean War-Era Laborers File Suit Against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
South Korean laborers who were forced to toil in harsh conditions for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries during the Korean War have filed a lawsuit against the Japanese conglomerate for its alleged culpability in the abuse of human rights.
The suit, filed in Tokyo District Court, accuses Mitsubishi Heavy of exploiting the laborers and depriving them of their basic rights, including the right to fair compensation. The complaint alleges that the company coerced the laborers into working long hours without overtime pay and subjected them to dangerous working environments without adequate safety measures.
The plaintiffs, all of whom are now in their 80s, were employed by Mitsubishi Heavy during the 1950s and 1960s. They claim their rights were violated under Japanese and international law, and are seeking damages for their suffering.
The case has been closely monitored by the South Korean government, which has long been at odds with Japan over its wartime conduct. In 2015, the two countries reached an agreement that acknowledged Japan’s role in the exploitation of Korean workers and established a $9 million fund to compensate them. However, the plaintiffs in the current case rejected the agreement, claiming it was inadequate and did not provide full redress for their suffering.
In the decades since the war, Mitsubishi Heavy has grown into one of the world’s largest industrial conglomerates, with a presence in the automotive, aerospace, and defense industries. The company has denied the allegations in the lawsuit, claiming it has “no legal responsibility” for the actions of its former employees. It remains to be seen whether the court will agree.
The trial is set to begin in the coming weeks, and will be closely watched by human rights activists and other observers. It could set a major precedent for future cases involving wartime labor abuses.