Restitution for Reconciliation: The US, Japan, and the Unpaid Assets of Asian Forced Mobilization Victims

More than six decades after the end of World War II, the Japanese government has yet to return an estimated ¥278 million worth of unpaid financial assets owed to Asian victims of forced mobilization for the war effort. During the Allied Occupation of Japan, American authorities directed Japanese officials to deposit these assets in the Bank of Japan for eventual restitution, setting up a custody account in 1946 and a foreign creditor’s account in 1949. However, the outbreak of the Korean War destroyed any chance of restitution, as the U.S. preoccupation over the cold war conflict effectively froze the unpaid assets that still remain in the Bank of Japan. Clarifying the historical record of American involvement in managing these accounts can contribute towards a U.S.-mediated effort to reach regional reconciliation between Japan and its neighbors in Northeast Asia.