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South Korean court rejects damages suit filed by former ‘comfort women’ over 2015 deal with Japan

On Friday, a court in South Korea rejected a suit that was filed by of a group of 12 prior “comfort women,” that were seeking 100 million Won (approximately $91,000) each in damages from the government, over a bilateral agreement with Japan that was seen to be controversial.

The suit was filed in 2016 within the Seoul District Court. In the suit, the group of women demanded a compensation from the government for the financial and mental damages they had claimed to suffer because of the 2015 agreement to put a final and irreversible settlement on the controversial issue of ladies that were coerced to work in the Japanese military brothels during wartime.

In the courts ruling, the agreement was acknowledged to be “lacking in clarity on many points.” Nonetheless, the conclusion came in which the court stated that within a consideration of the procedure to reach a consensus that was bilateral, along with diplomatic negotiations, it couldn’t be said that any illegal activities were conducted by the government.

“From today’s ruling, the court has given legality to the government’s decision in 2015, which is not understandable and therefore we will appeal,” the lawyer for the plaintiffs had commented.

The 2015 agreement was criticized by the women, as it was believed by them that it goes opposing to a ruling by South Korea’s Constitutional Court in the year 2011, where it was stated that it’s unconstitutional for government to perform not attempt of tangible efforts to settle disagreements with Japan over its resistance to give dues and compensate prior comfort women.

The suit was filed by the plaintiffs and supported by the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, which is a civil service group which opposes the present agreement.

Horrible abuses were inflicted by the military of Japan on women, up to the number of tens of thousands, and mostly Koreans. This occurred in the decades of the 1930’s and 1940’s. On December 27, the conclusive results of a review that happened for five months were released, which summarized that the approach that was victim-centered “established as an international standard when it comes to women’s human rights during war, was not sufficiently reflected during the negotiation process”. The war victims, along with their advocates, were also left out of the secret government negotiations – which was said to be done as an act of sincerity in order to address an extremely sensitive and profound injustice of history.

The accord has been criticized repeatedly by President Moon Jae-in for the flaws present in the process and content of the matter. On January 4, the president met with the women and gave them an apology for the negligence of the Park government. However the Japanese government gave no acknowledgment of the matter, and rather than make a public apology, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe phoned one into Park.

Within the 2015 deal, Japan made an apology and expressed a form of remorse to prior comfort women for the suffering inflicted on them, and gave ¥1 billion ($8.8 million) to a foundation based in South Korea in an effort to support victims that have survived.

However, the deal has been proven as controversial among the many victims, and also by the public of South Korea, with critics stating that the voices of victims had been ignored and that the fresh apology from Japan over the issues was still inadequate.


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