TOKYO (AP) — An outside director of Mitsubishi Materials said Wednesday that the company hopes to apologize to former British, Dutch and Australian World War II POWs, and also reach an amicable agreement with Chinese forced laborers, following a landmark apology to American POWs earlier this week.
“If there is such an opportunity, we will do the same apology,” Yukio Okamoto told foreign media, saying the POWs brought to Japan were subjected to inexcusable labor conditions. “What other companies will do, we don’t know. … Ours is one of those who tortured POWs most, so we have to apologize.”
Okamoto, a former diplomat, was among company officials who delivered an apology to surviving POWs and family members on Sunday in Los Angeles for about 900 Americans forced to work in Mitsubishi mines and factories.
Japan invaded China before and during the war, and Chinese who were sent to work in Japan and their descendants are suing Mitsubishi for compensation in China.
“We are making our best effort to come to an amicable solution with the victims,” Okamoto said.
“I personally sympathize a great deal with Chinese forced laborers,” he added. “I think we will have to apologize … (and) they are demanding reparation, and that is in a court, so this will be a solution with money.”
One day earlier, China’s state news agency Xinhua called the apology to Americans “selective” and accused Japan of a “double standard on wartime atrocities.”
Koreans were also forced to work, but Okamoto said he believes their legal situation is different. Japan colonized Korea in 1910, so Koreans were technically Japanese citizens ordered to work as were all Japanese under a 1938 general mobilization law.
A South Korean government commission on victims of forced mobilization under colonial rule estimates that 6,489 Koreans worked for Mitsubishi-owned companies, including 4,105 for Mitsubishi Mining, the predecessor company of Mitsubishi Materials Corp.
The legality aside, Okamoto minced no words about the annexation, describing it as the “greatest sin” Japan committed against Korea.
“The fundamental sin, as I said at the outset, was the annexation of Korea, obliterating their national identities,” he said. “We did not allow Koreans to use their own name, use their language. We even forced Shintoism on them to create second-class Japanese citizens.”
Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul contributed to this story.