In a landmark ruling, a Japanese court yesterday ordered the government and a private company to pay damages to 12 Chinese nationals and their families who were brought to Japan as forced laborers during World War II.
It is believed to be the first time that a court here has ordered both the government and a company to pay compensation for former forced laborers.
The Niigata District Court ordered the government and the Niigata-based distribution company Rinko Corp to jointly pay eight million yen (US$75,340) to each plaintiff -- 10 former laborers and relatives representing a deceased former laborer.
The plaintiffs were brought to Niigata in 1944 by the Japanese military and were put to work at the Niigata port and train stations as porters carrying such supplies as food and coal, according to court documents.
They returned to China after the war, but they claimed that they suffered from physical and psychological after-effects.
Dozens of former Chinese forced laborers have filed similar suits against the Japanese government and companies.
Some courts have admitted the plaintiffs were forced to be laborers at mines and elsewhere during the war.
Most of the claims, however, have been denied, citing a statute of limitations.
In a landmark ruling in April 2002, the Fukuoka District Court in southern Japan ordered Mitsui Mining to pay 165 million yen (US$1.55 million) to 15 Chinese forced laborers.
But three months later, a claim by nine forced laborers was rejected in the western Japan city of Hiroshima due to the statute of limitations.