South Korean court orders Japan to compensate WWII comfort women
11/30/2023 // Richard Brown // Views

A South Korean appellate court has ordered Japan to compensate 16 women who had been coerced into working in Japanese brothels during World War II as "comfort women."

The lawsuit against Japan was initiated in 2016 and was dismissed by the Seoul Central District Court in 2021. It cited the principle of "sovereign immunity," which means a state is immune to civil suits filed in foreign courts. However, the Seoul High Court overturned the decision, asserting in its reversal that the case fell under South Korea's jurisdiction based on customary international law.

The Seoul High Court ordered Tokyo to pay ?200 million ($155,000) to each of the 16 victims, acknowledging that the defendant had engaged in illegal acts during the mobilization of comfort women. The victims endured forced and unwanted sexual intercourse with numerous Japanese soldiers daily – leading to injuries, the risk of pregnancy or death, and an inability to readjust to normal social life after the war.

"Under customary international law, it is reasonable to recognize the jurisdiction of South Korean courts over the defendant Japanese government," the Yonhap News Agency quoted the court as saying. "It is recognized that the defendant engaged in illegal acts in the course of mobilizing comfort women, and appropriate compensation should be paid."

Ninety-four-year-old Lee Yong-soo, the only living plaintiff in the lawsuit, expressed gratitude for the court's decision. The victim of abuse from the Japanese military acknowledged her co-plaintiffs who had passed away.

Japan challenges ruling, won't compensate victims

However, Japan rejected the ruling and cited a 1965 treaty that it believes settled the issue of comfort women. Yoko Kamikawa, the Japanese foreign minister, deemed the decision "extremely regrettable and absolutely unacceptable." She asserted that the ruling violated international law and agreements between the two countries.

Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Masataka Okano meanwhile summoned Yun Duk-min, South Korea's ambassador to Japan, to protest. Tokyo urged Seoul to take appropriate measures to address its alleged breaches of international law.

The Japanese government has chosen not to participate in this case and similar legal actions were brought by various groups of South Korean women asserting they were compelled to work in military brothels.

Japan maintains that all matters arising from its colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945 were conclusively settled under a 1965 bilateral agreement. Additionally, Japan contends that the comfort women issue was ultimately and irrevocably resolved by a 2015 accord between the two countries.

In 2015, the two nations signed an agreement to address the issue of "comfort women," with Japan issuing an apology and pledging approximately ¥1 billion ($6.69 million) for a fund to assist victims of wartime sexual slavery. The high court acknowledged that Japan's argument could be a point of contention but clarified that it was not considered due to the absence of a plea from the Japanese government.

Bilateral relations between the two U.S. allies have long been strained over wartime sex abuse and forced labor issues. However, recent talks between South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida aimed at restoring ties, including normalizing a military intelligence-sharing pact to counter North Korea's missile threats. (Related: WWII main players Germany and Japan gearing up for global war.)

South Korea's government has indicated its intention to use local funds for compensating victims of forced labor rather than pressuring Japanese companies for compensation.

Watch this segment from the "Worldview Report" about the possibility of Japan and South Korea being attacked by China and North Korea.

This video is from the Worldview Report channel on

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