Mitsubishi apologizes for using POWs as slave labor

Updated: 2015-07-21 07:53

By Agencies in Los Angeles(China Daily)

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Mitsubishi apologizes for using POWs as slave labor

James Murphy, a US POW who survived working at Mitsubishi's Osarizawa Copper Mine and the infamous Bataan Death March in the Philippines, reacts after a Mitsubishi news conference apology in Los Angeles on Sunday. [Photo/Agencies]

Construction giant Mitsubishi Materials Corp became the first major Japanese company to apologize for using captured US soldiers as slave laborers during World War II, offering remorse on Sunday for "the tragic events in our past".

A company representative offered the apology on behalf of its predecessor, Mitsubishi Mining Co, at a special ceremony at a Los Angeles museum.

"Today we apologize remorsefully for the tragic events in our past," Mitsubishi Materials Senior Executive Officer Hikaru Kimura told an audience at the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

About 12,000 US prisoners of war, of whom more than 1,100 died, were put into forced labor by the Japanese government and private companies seeking to fill a wartime labor shortage, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, an associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Six POW camps in Japan were linked to the Mitsubishi conglomerate during the war, and they held 2,041 prisoners, more than 1,000 of whom were from the US.

Mitsubishi Materials Corp's predecessor ran four sites that at the time of liberation in 1945 held an estimated 876 US prisoners of war. Twenty-seven of them died in those camps, Asia Policy Point said.

Previous Japanese prime ministers have apologized for Japan's aggression during the war, but private corporations have been less contrite.

On Sunday, Kimura was flanked by Yukio Okamoto, a forced laborer in a copper mine and a special adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, along with an image of US and Japanese flags.

In the audience were other forced-labor survivors and family members.

"This is a glorious day," said 94-year-old veteran James Murphy, who survived the infamous Bataan Death March in the Philippines and working at Mitsubishi Mining's Osarizawa Copper Mine. "For 70 years, we wanted this."

Reuters - AFP - AP