The Mitsubishi corporation is to make a landmark apology for using American prisoners of war (POWs) as forced labour during World War Two.
American World War II prisoner of war (POW) James Murphy (R) shakes hand with Hikaru Kimura (C), Mitsubishi Materials Corp. senior executive, and Yukio Okamoto.
The executive will express remorse at a ceremony at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles, officials there say.
Senior executives from Mitsubishi Materials formally apologized Sunday for using American prisoners of war as forced laborers during World War II.
The apology comes near the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.
Murphy, who toiled in Mitsubishi copper mines and is one of the few left alive to accept such an apology, called it honest, humble and revealing.
The mines operated at four locations run by Mitsubishi’s predecessor company, Mitsubishi Mining Co.
Sadly, Murphy was the only former POW that worked for the Japanese conglomerate who could make the trip.
But Rabbi Abraham Cooper, an associate dean at the center whose primary focus in the past has been Holocaust education, said he and the event’s other organizers believe the apology is unprecedented from a major Japanese company.
Koreans and Chinese were also victims of such forced labor and reparations have been demanded from other Japanese firms in a string of court cases.
He added that it was “a glorious day… for 70 years we wanted this” and that he hoped the apology would help strengthen relations between the two nations.
Murphy accepted the apology and said the prisoners were held in conditions of “slavery”, without food, clothing and sanitation.
The ceremony was preceded by a private apology that ended with a long, deep bow from the Mitsubishi representatives.
The Japanese government only officially apologized to former American POWs five years ago, and Mitsubishi’s initiative appeared to be the first of its kind by a Japanese corporation. The Mitsubishi apology is “a big deal”, he said.