Forced labor: Mitsubishi to discuss sordid WWII past in Netherlands

The sale of Dutch energy company Eneco to Mitsubishi has stalled due to the Japanese company's history of forced labor during the Second World War. The 44 Dutch municipalities that own Eneco want the Mitsubishi Corporation to enter into dialogue with the Dutch people who were forced to work for them during the war, Trouw reports. 

An estimated 7,300 Dutch prisoners of war were shipped from the then Dutch East Indies to perform forced labor in Japan during the Second World War. At least 661 of them were forced to work in the mines and shipyards of Mitsubishi Mining and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, parts of the large family conglomerate Mitsubishi which was founded in 1870. 

Late last year it was announced that Mitsubishi wants to buy Eneco for 4.1 billion euros. The energy company is owned by 44 Dutch municipalities. The largest shareholder is the municipality of Rotterdam with almost a third of the shares. If the takeover happens, Rotterdam will get nearly 1.3 billion euros. The second largest shareholder, The Hague with 16 percent of shares, will get around 675 million euros. 

On January 16th, during council meetings in The Hague and Rotterdam, the foundation Japanse Ereschulden asked the municipalities to demand recognition, apology and compensation for the suffering of Mitsubishi's forced laborers. Both The Hague alderman Boudewijn Revis (VVD) and his Rotterdam colleague Arjan van Gils (D66) promised to discuss this matter with the other shareholders. Resulting in the Eneco shareholders now wanting Mitsubishi to contact the Dutch victims of forced labor before the sale can proceed, according to the newspaper. 

"We know the shocking and moving stories of prisoners of war who were forced to do forced labor for Japan during the Second World War," Eneco's shareholders' committee said to Trouw. "We have communicated these stories and concerns to representatives of Mitsubishi Corporation and asked them to come into contact with the victims and their representatives." The committee would not say whether they also asked for apologies or compensation.

Mitsubishi Corporation did not want to respond substantively to Trouw's questions. "I would like to emphasize that Mitsubishi Corporation was founded in 1954, nine years after the end of the Second World War," a spokesperson said to the newspaper. 

Immediately after the war, the United States demanded that the old Mitsubishi be split into dozens of smaller companies. In 1954, some of them merged again into the new Mitsubishi Corporation, which now forms part of the Mitsubishi Group, according to the newspaper. All companies that form part of this group originated from the pre-war conglomerate, according to Trouw. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is also part of the group. 

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