Court Win For Skorean 'Comfort Women' Upheld With Japan's Inaction


(MENAFN- IANS) Seoul, Dec 9 (IANS) A recent court victory for South Korean victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery was confirmed on Saturday after Japan decided not to appeal the earlier ruling, sources said.

On November 23, the Seoul High Court had overturned a lower court's rejection of a damages suit filed by "comfort women" and ordered Japan to pay 200 million won (US$151,780) in compensation to each of the 16 victims, Yonhap news agency reported.

Japan had two weeks to file an appeal but it chose not to do so, according to the sources.

The victims filed the suit in 2016, but the Seoul Central District Court dismissed the case in 2021, citing sovereign immunity, a legal doctrine that allows a state to be immune from a civil suit in foreign courts.

Last month, however, the Seoul High Court overturned the lower court's decision and ruled the defendant must pay the full amount requested by the victims.

The court handed down the ruling on the grounds that, under customary international law, "It is reasonable to recognize the jurisdiction of South Korean courts over the defendant Japanese government."

The court also said at the time that the acts committed by Japan are considered "illegal according to South Korean civil law."

Whether the victims will receive their money is another matter. Unless the Japanese government voluntarily offers the compensation, the victims will have to identify Japanese assets that can be seized by a court and wage another legal battle.

Tokyo has maintained that it has no obligation to follow the ruling by a South Korean court.

In response to Japan's decision not to appeal, an official from Seoul's foreign ministry said Saturday that South Korea "will try to ensure the two countries will remain engaged in future-oriented cooperation."

"Our government has continued to try to restore the honor and dignity of the victims of wartime sexual slavery," the official added. "We also respect the 2015 agreement reached between the countries on settling the issue of wartime sex slaves. That position has not changed over the years across different administrations."

The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) criticised the Yoon Suk Yeol government for being "subservient to Japan."

"Japan has made such a shameless response as the Yoon government has taken a submissive stance," DP spokesperson Rep. Kwon Chil-seung said in a briefing. "The (South Korean) government should act properly to Japan so that the victims can receive sincere apologies and compensation."

--IANS

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