Court rejects releasing 2015 sex slave deal files

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Court rejects releasing 2015 sex slave deal files

Overturning a lower court decision, an appellate court on Thursday rejected a request to publicize diplomatic documents related to South Korea’s 2015 deal with Japan over Tokyo’s wartime sexual slavery.

The Seoul High Court did not specify the reason for its decision, but it appears to believe that disclosing the documents could negatively affect Seoul-Tokyo ties.

The lower court earlier ordered the revelation of the documents for the purpose of “guaranteeing the people’s right to know and secure transparency in running state affairs.”

In December 2015, the government of President Park Geun-hye and Japan signed an agreement to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the issue of Japan’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II.

The deal included Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s indirect apology and the launch of a foundation dedicated to supporting the surviving victims.

Tokyo promised to contribute 1 billion yen ($8.9 million) to the foundation.

But the accord has come under public criticism here as Seoul failed to obtain Japan’s acknowledgment of legal responsibility for atrocities and reached the deal without consulting the victims.

Thursday’s decision came as Seoul and Tokyo have seen their ties sink to a low point amid a series of diplomatic tensions.

In 2016, Song Ki-ho, a lawyer, requested the foreign minister unveil the relevant diplomatic documents to the public. In 2017, an administrative court accepted his request, ordering the government to make them public.

The lawyer said he will decide whether to lodge an appeal after consulting with the victims of Japan’s sexual slavery.

“The court appears to have given weight to diplomatic ties,” Song said. “I will do my best until Japan acknowledges its wrongdoing, apologizes and compensates for it.”

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