A South Korean appeals court has decided that a group of former “comfort women” who suffered in Japanese military brothels during World War II should receive compensation from the Japanese government. The court ruled that the actions of the Japanese military, which involved abducting and coercing women into sexual acts, violated international treaties and Japan’s criminal law at the time. The term “comfort women” refers to those who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system.
The Seoul High Court has ordered the Japanese government to pay 200 million yuan ($154,000) to each of the 16 former comfort women involved in the lawsuit. Most of the plaintiffs are family members of those who suffered. This decision overturns a 2021 lower court ruling that dismissed the case, citing South Korea’s lack of jurisdiction due to sovereign immunity.
Despite the ruling, the Japanese government has chosen not to participate in this case or similar lawsuits filed by other groups of South Korean women who claim they were forced to work in military brothels. Japan contends that all issues related to its 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula were settled under a 1965 bilateral agreement and that a 2015 accord resolved the comfort women issue “finally and irreversibly.”
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