South Korean Court Rules against “Comfort Women” Damages Suit
A former comfort women group failed to convince the court about its compensation suit it had filed. In a ruling that was made on Friday this week, the court rejected a compensation claim amounting to about $91,000 in damages to every victim. The group had filed a suit against an agreement that the South Korean government had signed with Japan back in 2015.
In a suit that was filed in 2016, the South Korean comfort women had sought compensation from the government as a result of the alleged financial and mental damages they had gone through following the deal that it had signed with the Japanese government in 2015.
The agreement between the two countries had sought to officially and permanently resolve the issue of Korean comfort women who were sexually mistreated by the Japanese soldiers during wartime. The women are said to have been forced to work in brothels as sex slaves a claim the Japanese government has constantly denied.
During the ruling, the judge said that the comfort women testimonies presented in court were not convincing enough to warrant them compensation as they demanded. Despite rejecting their suit, the judge admitted that the 2015 agreement between South Korea and Japan lacked clarity and as a result did not adequately address some of the pressing issues raised by the victims.
Nonetheless, the judge praised the government’s efforts of restoring diplomatic relations with Japan and said that the agreement signed in 2015 was not entirely illegal rather it only needed a few amendments.
Speaking after the judge had made the ruling; the plaintiff’s lawyer said that it was unfortunate that the court had decided to legitimize the 2015 agreement between the two countries. “We are disappointed by the decision of the court today and because we strongly feel it was unfair, we are going to appeal the decision,” said the lawyer.
The women were against the deal claiming that it was contrary to a ruling that had been issued by a constitutional court in 2011. In the ruling, the judge declared that it was illegal for the South Korean government not to take serious steps in ensuring that the disputes concerning compensation of the comfort women by the Japanese government are resolved.
The case was filed by the women group with the support of other civic groups that have been fighting for the rights of comfort women stories for several years.
The 2015 agreement between the two countries was as a result of protracted negotiations that were meant to create a conducive economic and political environment in the region and especially between South Korea and Japan.
In the deal, Japan apologized for the suffering that South Korean comfort women went through and expressed its remorse to all the victims. In addition to that, they also pledged to offer about $8.8 million to a foundation that would support the war victims that suffered under its military officers.
However, not many people in South Korea were happy about the 2015 deal. Most of the victims together with a section of civil rights groups opposed it saying that it did not take care of all the grievances brought forward by the victims. The deal was however lauded by leaders across the world including the President of the United States who termed it as a beginning of a new chapter towards peace in the region.
Despite the fact that the deal which was signed back in 2015 has not yet been fully implemented, both South Korean and Japanese governments are hopeful that all the pending issues will be addressed and hence realize the full its full implementation. The Korean government has expressed its willingness to see that the deal succeeds.