SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court docket on Friday ordered the Japanese authorities to pay $91,800 every to 12 Korean girls saved as intercourse slaves for Japan’s troops throughout World Battle II. The ruling, the primary of its variety in South Korea, is more likely to irritate the already chilly relations between Washington’s two key allies in Asia.
“The court docket acknowledges that the accused dedicated unlawful acts and that the plaintiffs suffered excessive psychological and bodily ache exhausting to think about,” Decide Kim Jeong-gon mentioned in his determination.
The ruling is basically symbolic; the Japanese authorities mentioned on Friday that the Korean court docket had no jurisdiction over Japan and that it will “by no means settle for” the order. However the determination might additional complicate Washington’s efforts to deliver South Korea and Japan nearer collectively to counter North Korea’s nuclear menace and China’s rising navy affect within the area.
Although South Korea and Japan face related threats from North Korea, there’s a deep-seated distrust between the 2 nations rooted in Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, from 1910 to 1945. The problem of the Japanese Military’s use of Korean and different girls as intercourse slaves is probably the most emotional historic dispute preserving Seoul and Tokyo aside.
“This can be a landmark ruling,” mentioned an advocacy group in Seoul that speaks for the ladies who filed the lawsuits, the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Problems with Navy Sexual Slavery by Japan.
A call on one other case, by which 11 former intercourse slaves are searching for related compensation from Tokyo, is scheduled for Wednesday.
The advocacy group mentioned that the lawsuits had been filed as a part of the ladies’s try to confront the Japanese authorities, which they accused of whitewashing the historical past of wartime sexual slavery by its navy.
“The Japanese authorities ought to honor the ruling and pay the compensation instantly,” the group mentioned, including that among the girls had died since submitting the lawsuits.
The plaintiffs within the civil lawsuit selected Friday filed their case with the Seoul Central District Courtroom in 2013. They accused Japan of coercing or luring them into sexual slavery in wartime brothels run for the nation’s troops. Every demanded 100 million gained ($91,800) in compensation. Solely 5 of the unique plaintiffs are nonetheless dwelling.
Historians say that tens of 1000’s of girls, a lot of them Korean, had been within the frontline brothels from the early Thirties till 1945. It was not till 1991, when a South Korean girl named Kim Hak-soon made the primary public testimony on her painful wartime experiences, that the difficulty went international. A whole of two40 girls have since come ahead in South Korea, however solely 16 — all of their 80s and 90s — are nonetheless alive.
The Japanese authorities didn’t take part within the trial, refusing to just accept notices from the South Korean court docket informing it of the authorized problem and asking for a response. The court docket made the notices public on-line and held its first listening to in April of final 12 months.
Talking with reporters on Friday, Katsunobu Kato, chief cupboard secretary to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan, mentioned that the court docket’s determination was “extraordinarily regrettable” and that the Japanese authorities had formally protested to its South Korean counterpart.
“We now have repeatedly expressed that the Japanese authorities will not be topic to Korean jurisdiction underneath the precept of exemption from sovereignty underneath worldwide legislation,” Mr. Kato mentioned.
In its ruling, the court docket mentioned that it couldn’t settle for the immunity declare as a result of the case concerned “anti-humanity acts systematically deliberate and perpetrated by the accused.”
Yoon Ji-hyun, director of Amnesty Worldwide Korea, mentioned that the ruling was important as a result of it was “the primary time a South Korean court docket held the Japanese authorities chargeable for the sexual slavery by the Japanese navy and opened the best way to revive justice for the survivors.”
South Korea’s Overseas Ministry mentioned in a press release on Friday, “We respect the court docket’s ruling and can do what we will to assist restore the consideration and dignity of the consolation girls victims.” It added, “We are going to intently examine the affect this ruling may have on diplomatic relations and make numerous efforts to proceed constructive and future-oriented cooperation between the 2 nations.”
The nations beforehand tried to shut the chapter on World Battle II intercourse slaves when Seoul and Tokyo introduced in December 2015 what they referred to as a “final and irreversible” settlement.
Within the deal, Japan expressed accountability and apologized anew to the girls, promising to arrange an $8.3 million fund to assist present old-age care. Washington hailed the deal. However among the girls have since rejected it, saying it did not specify Japan’s “authorized” accountability or to supply official reparations.
Kazuhiko Togo, a former Japanese diplomat who’s now director of Kyoto Sangyo College’s Institute for World Research, mentioned that 36 of the 48 girls who had been alive on the time of the 2015 deal had accepted funds from the funds.
“On the one hand, my place is that as a perpetrator nation, at the least we have to have a number of ethical obligations to recollect, and from that standpoint ‘sufficient’ or not will not be a matter which we the perpetrator nation ought to decide,” Mr. Togo mentioned. However legally, he added, “I don’t suppose the Koreans have the appropriate to pronounce the Japanese responsible.”
Mr. Togo mentioned that if the Korean courts had been to attempt to confiscate Japanese authorities property to satisfy the judgment, “Korea and Japan will be unable to keep up regular diplomatic relations.”
He added: “I deeply suppose this isn’t within the curiosity of Korea or of Japan.”
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of worldwide research at Ewha Womans College in Seoul, mentioned that Tokyo would deem the ruling “an escalation in a sample of weaponizing historical past and breaking worldwide agreements.”
He added, “The financial fallout will probably be troublesome to gauge in the course of the pandemic, however the diplomatic implication is to complicate the incoming Biden administration’s plans for trilateral cooperation to take care of North Korea and China.”
Relations between South Korea and Japan had already been frosty for years over one other problem from the colonial period: wartime slave labor. In 2018, South Korea’s Supreme Court dominated that Japanese corporations should compensate Korean males who had been compelled into labor throughout World Battle II. Japan vehemently denounced the ruling.
Japan accused South Korea of undermining the 1965 treaty that established diplomatic ties between the 2 nations, underneath which Japan supplied South Korea with $500 million in support and low-cost loans. Tokyo insisted that every one claims arising from its colonial rule, together with these involving compelled laborers and so-called consolation girls, a euphemism for the intercourse slaves, had been settled by the treaty.
In 2019, Japan imposed export controls on South Korea in a transfer extensively seen as retaliation for the 2018 Supreme Courtroom ruling. The commerce dispute quickly unfold to safety ties, with South Korea threatening to desert an intelligence-sharing agreement with Tokyo that Washington thought of very important to sustaining cooperation among the many three nations.
Seoul didn’t comply with by with its menace. However on-and-off makes an attempt by each governments to slender their variations have gone nowhere. The ruling on Friday will most definitely add to the dangerous blood.
Motoko Wealthy contributed reporting from Tokyo.