South Korean Court docket Sides With Japan in Wartime Sexual Slavery Case

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SEOUL — A decide in South Korea dominated on Wednesday that Korean girls who had been compelled into sexual slavery by Japan throughout World Battle II can not search compensation from the Japanese authorities in a South Korean court docket, a call that angered survivors and contradicted an earlier ruling in January.

Within the earlier verdict, the presiding decide ordered the Japanese authorities to pay 100 million gained ($89,400) every to 12 former Korean intercourse slaves, often called “consolation girls.”

The 2 completely different selections by two completely different judges within the Seoul Central District Court docket sophisticated the survivors’ decades-long effort to carry the Japanese authorities legally accountable for wartime sexual slavery. The 2 rulings additionally confirmed that the South Korean judiciary was divided over Japan’s declare that worldwide regulation shielded it from lawsuits in overseas courts.

In January, the South Korean decide dominated that the Japanese authorities must be topic to Korean jurisdiction as a result of the expertise of Korean intercourse slaves concerned “anti-humanity acts systematically deliberate and perpetrated by the Japanese Empire.” For such acts, Japan can not declare exemption from a lawsuit in South Korea primarily based on state sovereignty, he mentioned.

The group of ladies in that case hailed the decide’s resolution as a landmark victory, however Tokyo rejected the ruling. It additionally mentioned {that a} 2015 settlement, which South Korea and Japan known as “closing and irreversible,” completely settled the long-running dispute over consolation girls. Beforehand, in a 1993 assertion, Japan issued a proper apology for the observe.

On Wednesday, a unique South Korean decide, Min Seong-cheol, sided with Japan and threw out the lawsuit filed by a separate group of former intercourse slaves. If courts begin making exceptions to the precept of nationwide sovereignty, “diplomatic clashes grow to be inevitable,” the decide mentioned in his ruling. Mr. Min additionally cited the 2015 settlement, underneath which Japan acknowledged accountability for its actions, apologized anew to the ladies and arrange an $8.3 million fund to assist present old-age take care of survivors.

A few of the surviving girls have accepted funds from the 2015 fund. Others rejected the settlement, saying that it did not specify Japan’s “authorized” accountability or to offer official reparations. The lawsuit thrown out on Wednesday was filed in 2016 by 20 plaintiffs, together with 11 former intercourse slaves. Solely 4 of the 11 are nonetheless alive, and all of them are of their 80s or 90s.

Neither the ruling in January nor the one on Wednesday is the ultimate say on the matter. The plaintiffs within the second lawsuit mentioned they might search the opinion of upper courts by interesting Wednesday’s resolution.

“It should go down in historical past as a shameful case the place the decide shirked his responsibility as a final bastion of human rights,” mentioned an advocacy group in Seoul that speaks for the ladies who filed the lawsuit. Lee Yong-soo, a former intercourse slave who joined the lawsuit, accused the decide of denying the victims “the suitable to hunt judgment on warfare crimes and anti-humanity crimes,” in line with a press release from her spokeswoman. Ms. Lee additionally demanded that each governments ask the Worldwide Court docket of Justice to rule on the case.

“Consolation girls” is the euphemism Japan adopted for the practically 200,000 younger girls — a lot of them Korean — who had been compelled or lured into working in brothels run by the Japanese army earlier than and through World Battle II. During the last 30 years, survivors from South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, China and the Netherlands have filed a complete of 10 lawsuits in opposition to the Japanese authorities in Japanese courts, in line with Amnesty Worldwide.

The survivors misplaced in all of these instances earlier than successful their case within the South Korean court docket in January.

“What was a landmark victory for the survivors after an excessively lengthy wait is once more now being known as into query,” Arnold Fang, researcher for East Asia at Amnesty Worldwide, mentioned in criticizing Wednesday’s court docket resolution. “Greater than 70 years have handed for the reason that finish of World Battle II, and we can not overstate the urgency for the Japanese authorities to cease depriving these survivors of their rights to full reparation and to offer an efficient treatment inside their lifetimes.”

In Tokyo, Katsunobu Kato, chief cupboard secretary to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, mentioned the Japanese authorities deliberate to overview the ruling intimately earlier than commenting on it. He added that his authorities couldn’t reply whether or not the brand new resolution mirrored a change in South Korea’s stance on the problem, however that “Japan’s perspective doesn’t change in any respect.”

Washington has urged Seoul and Tokyo to enhance ties in order that the allies can work extra carefully to deal with North Korea’s nuclear menace and China’s rising army affect within the area. For years, Japan and South Korea have locked horns over consolation girls and different historic points stemming from Japan’s colonial rule of Korea from 1910 to 1945.

Tokyo insisted that every one claims arising from its colonial rule, together with these involving sexually enslaved girls, had been settled by the 1965 treaty that established diplomatic relations between the 2 nations, in addition to the 2015 consolation girls settlement. Below the 1965 settlement, Japan offered South Korea with $500 million in assist and reasonably priced loans.

The South Korean authorities didn’t instantly touch upon Wednesday’s court docket ruling. However throughout a discussion board in Seoul on Wednesday, Overseas Minister Chung Eui-yong mentioned that, though his authorities had not deserted the 2015 deal, the victims and their calls for have to be “on the middle” of any effort to resolve the problem.

Hisako Ueno contributed reporting from Tokyo.

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