Forced labour China
Forced labour ChinaReuters

Mitsubishi Materials, one of the Japanese companies that had forcefully employed Chinese workers in coalmines during the Second World War, offered its apology and 100,000 Yuan on Wednesday to each of the surviving victims and the kin of the deceased families. If every victim is paid, Mitsubishi Materials will be spending a total amount of around $56 million.

The company signed an agreement on Wednesday with three Chinese workers, who represented a group of almost 3,700 former coalmine workers who were seeking compensation for the brutal treatment that was meted out to them or their kin. Two other Japanese companies, Kajima and Nishimatsu, have also initiated steps in favour of the victims.

"We have come to the conclusion that we will extend an apology [to the victims] and offer the money as a proof of that apology," a Mitsubishi Materials spokesman was quoted as saying by the Guardian.

The 3,765 people, who are supposed to receive compensation, are part of some 40,000 workers who were brought to Japan from China in the early 1940s to fill the lacuna of workers. They were employed in 10 coalmines owned by Mitsubishi Mining Corp (Mitsubishi Materials' former name).

Some 7,000 workers are believed to have died due to malnutrition and severe working conditions.

The compensation, the first of its kind, came two years after the former coalmine workers filed a case against Japanese companies that had employed them.

"Our forced labour case today has finally come to a resolution. We have won this case. This is a big victory that merits a celebration," Yan Yucheng, 87, a former labourer, was quoted as saying by the Guardian.