Court denies damages for ‘comfort women’

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Court denies damages for ‘comfort women’

The Seoul Central District Court on Friday ruled against 11 survivors of the Japanese military’s sexual slavery who sought compensation from the Korean government over a controversial deal that the countries signed in 2015 to settle the matter.

Each of the survivors had demanded 100 million won ($91,000) in damages for psychological and material harm from the agreement.

In December 2015, Korea and Japan struck a deal to settle the so-called “comfort women” issue. The agreement included an apology from the Japanese government and a 1 billion yen ($9 million) fund for victims. The two countries called the agreement “final and irreversible.”

Some of the survivors and civic groups supporting them rejected the agreement, saying Japan failed to recognize legal responsibility. They filed a lawsuit against the Korean government in August 2016.

One of the victims in the lawsuit and an outspoken activist, Kang Il-chul, said her “sense of human dignity and worth had been seriously violated because the Japanese government has not recognized its legal responsibility, but our country made the deal without even asking for our opinions.”

To support their case, the group cited a Constitutional Court ruling from August 2011, which stated that the government’s inaction in helping the women settle the matter goes against the Korean constitution.

However, the Seoul Central District Court determined that the government had not committed an illegal act, “taking into consideration that diplomatic acts between two countries is a domain which allows for wide-ranging discretionary authority.”

The court also said that while “it is difficult to determine that based on the agreement, the plaintiffs’ individual right to demand compensation from Japan has expired.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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