Each ‘comfort woman’ has right to seek redress: Gov’t

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Each ‘comfort woman’ has right to seek redress: Gov’t

The government reaffirmed Tuesday that each and every Korean victim of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery has the right to seek damages from the Japanese government, separately from the 2015 settlement between Seoul and Tokyo.

The position has been submitted to a local court in April, multiple government sources said Tuesday, as a part of a lawsuit filed by a group of 12 elderly survivors of the Imperial Japanese Army’s sexual enslavement during World War II.

They demanded that the Korean government pay 100 million won ($88,574) per person in compensation for having failed to help them get enough compensation from Japan by going through with the December 2015 agreement.

The Seoul Central District Court ordered the government to clarify the legal effectiveness of the agreement. The settlement included an apology from Japan and a fund of 1 billion yen ($9.95 million) for the victims, which Japan has since paid out of its state budget. The two countries also agreed that the deal is final and irreversible as long as Japan follows through with it.

In a written response to the court, the government stated that the agreement does not override victims’ individual rights to claim further compensation.

Japan has long insisted that the victims, also referred as “comfort women,” have no right to seek individual compensation because, it claims, this was already provided by the 1965 normalization treaty between Korea and Japan.

Korea maintains that government-to-government agreements do not override the individual rights of the victims. Through the latest lawsuit, the government reaffirmed that this position remains unchanged.

The 2015 agreement is a political deal. Although the Park Geun-hye administration, which signed the agreement, said it must be respected because it is a promise between two countries, President Moon Jae-in, who took office last month, has repeatedly challenged the deal.

His latest complaint came Monday when he met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s special envoy.

“The Korean people do not accept the agreement. Most of all, the ‘comfort women’ do not accept it. I believe we must face this reality and spend more time to resolve it,” Moon told Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The ruling party said Tuesday the 2015 deal must be renegotiated. “It was reached in a high-handed, unilateral way under the Park government,” said Rep. Woo Won-sik, floor leader of the Democratic Party.

“We are responsible to resolve the pain suffered by the victims due to this agreement,” he said, adding that Moon has also made this point to the Japanese envoy.

“The agreement is insufficient to restore the victims’ honor and compensate them.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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