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

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

Twelve former “comfort women” filed a suit in South Korea in 2016, but it was denied on June 15th, 2018. They were suing the government for 100 million won, or $91,000, for each plaintiff. The suit was filed as a result of a 2015 agreement the government made with Japan. The women feel as if they incurred emotional and financial damages due to the 2015 agreement and that the apology and compensation was inadequate compared to the sexual slavery that they were forced into during wartime.

The plaintiffs filed the suit in 2016 with the Seoul District Court. The women had the support of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a civic group that opposes the controversial bilateral agreement made with Japan in 2015.

In the 2015 agreement, Japan sincerely apologized and expressed their deepest condolences to the victims for all the suffering that they endured during wartime. They also agreed to put in 1 billion Yen, or $8.8 million, into a foundation in South Korea that supported victims who were affected by the forced sexual slavery during wartime. This amount is much larger than the amount requested in the 2016 suit and it covers a larger portion of the victims affected. Japan sincerely apologized and substantially compensated the women for their suffering.

However, this generous agreement has not been supported by the victims and they feel as if their voices are not being heard. These “comfort women” were forced to work in military brothels, also known as “comfort stations,” during wartime. After being forced into this form of sexual slavery to satisfy the Japanese military, they feel as if Japan’s apology and payment was insufficient.

The 2016 suit was filed by the victims because they believed that it went against a ruling made in South Korea’s Constitutional Court in 2011. This ruling stated that it would be unconstitutional if the government refused to put forth any real effort in the negotiations with Japan; Japan had previously refused to compensate the women affected by their decisions during wartime. However, the 2015 agreement shows that they were making a considerable effort to make up for their mistakes and following through with what they said they were going to do.

The court ruled against the plaintiffs in 2018 stating that the agreement made in 2015 was completely legal and constitutional and did not inadequately address the victim’s concerns. Japan had made a sincere effort to right their wrongs. The court did state that the agreement was “lacking in clarity on many points,” but it did not break the 2011 agreement and was an acceptable apology and compensation.

The comfort women’s lawyer has stated that they will appeal the 2018 decision. The victims and their legal team do not understand this decision because they still believe that the 2015 agreement is unconstitutional and goes against the 2011 ruling. They want to settle this issue that occurred so long ago, “finally and irreversibly.”

Although the victims feel this way, the ruling by the court in 2018 sided with Japan and stated that they had abided by the rules set forth in 2011 by Korea’s Constitutional Court. They paid their dues for their wrongdoings during wartime by apologizing and funding a South Korean foundation which was created from their 2015 agreement made with the South Korean government.

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