A lawsuit filed by 12 former members of the Korean comfort women group was on Friday rejected by a South Korean court. In the lawsuit, the women were seeking additional compensation worth up to $91,000 for ‘damages’ and torture they purportedly suffered from the government’s negotiations and consequent agreement with the Japanese government. In the suit, the women claimed that the compensation was not enough and proportional to their plight.
The long lawsuits had been under hearing in the court since 2016 in the Seoul District Court. According to suit papers in possession of the court, the women were seeking a final declaratory judgment that would have awarded them the additional compensation as they were grieved by the South Korea-Japan agreement in which they were unfairly victimized, not consulted, and left out of the bilateral agreement.
Offering its judgment, the court observed that the intergovernmental talks were not sufficiently proven by the applicants to have been drafted, ratified, or implemented in contravention to any law within Japan, South Korea of part of the international law. The court, however, warned that the agreement between the two governments failed to maintain clarity in many points that would have seen the aggrieved parties’ issues resolved.
Speaking to reporters after the court ruling, a plaintiff’s lawyer observed that the ruling showed with clarity that the government’s agreements with Japan were not as clear as it should have been. He, therefore, hinted that his clients would be seeking further legal action in a higher court in an appeal that he did not clarify the precise dates of filing.
Should the lawyers seek further action from higher courts, the issue could drag on for some more years as the government seeks to maintain its position that the ‘comfort women’ were acting in contravention to the law.
Speaking to the media, the women openly criticized the ruling and said that the judge’s position was in contravention to the South Korean Constitutional Court opinions expressed earlier in 2011. In its opinion, the South Korean Constitutional Court had said that the South Korean government would be acting against the law to seek a settlement with Japan yet fail to come to a compensatory agreement with the comfort women.
The women had filled the suit under the support and sponsorship of a group called the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery. The civic group has been vocal against the government’s position to agree with Japan over issues it considers to be controversially handled in the past.
Their position has seemingly been influenced by the fact that the comfort women in Japan had been compensated under similar lawsuits filed in court. Japan apologized and paid the victims over $88 million in compensation to the women whom it considered as victims still surviving various ordeals. The women have ever since been seeking further compensation from South Korea over what it terms as inadequate compensation from Japan.
The government in South Korea has been silent over the matter since the court ruling. It is, however, highly likely that it would budge from its hardline-position it has maintained over the matter in the past.
In 2015, the two governments agreed to resolve the matter out of court where Japan agreed to compensate Korean Women who had suffered sexual slavery during the World War 2. The compensatory package that Japan paid at the time was channeled to the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery. With Japan considering the issue to have been resolved, it is clear that the Friday agreement favored the two nations and would be highly unlikely to be compelled to make any further compensatory payments in future.