South Korean Court Orders Japan to Compensate ‘Comfort Women’

A court in South Korea ordered Japan on Jan. 8 to pay damages to 12 “comfort women,” former sex slaves who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during Japan’s colonial rule.

A court in South Korea ordered Japan on Jan. 8 to pay damages to 12 “comfort women,” former sex slaves who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during Japan’s colonial rule.

The Seoul Central District Court ordered Japan to compensate each of the victims or their families 100 million won (US$91,000) in the first legal civilian case in South Korea against Japan by the comfort women that began eight years ago.

“It was a crime against humanity that was systematically, deliberately, and extensively committed by Japan in breach of international norms,” Judge Kim Jeong-gon said in the ruling that could cause strains on the diplomatic ties between the two countries.

“The court recognizes that the accused committed illegal acts and that the plaintiffs suffered extreme psychological and physical pain hard to imagine,” Kim also said.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato described the ruling as “unacceptable” and called for South Korea to make an “appropriate response.”

In a statement, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said that its Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba summoned South Korean Ambassador to Japan Nam Gwan-pyo to register Japan’s complaint on the ruling.

Nam told reporters that he would work on preventing the ruling from creating an “undesirable impact” on the bilateral ties.

Japan claims that a 1965 treaty already resolved the issue and that the two countries agreed to “finally and irreversibly” end the dispute in a 2015 deal with an apology from Japan and a ¥1 billion (US$9.6 million) fund for the victims. However, South Korean President Moon Jae-in effectively nullified the 2015 deal, citing the lack of consent from the victims. 

Moreover, the South Korean court said that neither the treaty nor the deal can cover the right to seek compensation.


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