Japan's largest stainless steel maker, Nippon Yakin Kogyou, yesterday agreed to pay compensation to former Chinese forced laborers, the Osaka High Court said.
Six Chinese plaintiffs and the Japanese firm reached the settlement at the Osaka High Court, ending a six-year battle. The plaintiffs filed the suit in August 1998.
Nippon Yakin agreed to pay ¥3.5 million (US$31,800) each to six Chinese plaintiffs -- four former forced laborers and two bereaved families.
Nippon Yakin will pay the money to compensate Chinese victims of a labor camp for nickel mining in Kyoto prefecture at the end of World War II.
In January last year, the Kyoto District Court rejected a suit filed by the Chinese plaintiffs, who were demanding a total of ¥130 million in compensation against Nippon Yakin. But the plaintiffs appealed to the Osaka High Court.
The plaintiffs said they were forced to work at the Tokyo-based firm's nickel factory in Kaya, Kyoto prefecture, after being forcibly brought from China in 1944.
In last year's court decision, Presiding Judge Shin Kusumoto acknowledged in the ruling that the government and the firm had acted illegally. It rejected the plaintiffs' demand for compensation, saying their right to claim compensation had expired under a 20-year statute of limitations.
The state argued that the Constitution of the Empire of Japan spared the government from having to compensate those damaged by the exercise of state power. The Meiji Constitution was in effect from 1890 to 1947.
The plaintiffs said they had been snatched by pro-Japanese Chinese soldiers when they where working in the fields of Henan Province in 1944 and taken to Japan where they were forced to toil in 14-hour days. They were also beaten with sticks if they did not meet their quotas and did not receive any wages, the suit claimed.
Among the 200 people forcibly brought to the factory, 12 of them died from lack of proper care, it said.
It was the second case in which a Japanese firm agreed to pay compensation to former forced laborers. In November 2000, Japanese construction firm Kajima agreed to set up a ¥500 millionfund to compensate 11 Chinese plaintiffs -- victims and their bereaved families -- of a labor camp uprising in northeastern Akita prefecture at the end of World War II.