On Friday a South Korean Court threw out a damage suit that had been filed by the former women group that sought compensation of approximately $91,000 for each victim.
This followed a bilateral agreement between South Korean and the Japanese governments. The suit had been filed in 2016 at a Seoul District Court. The group was demanding compensation for what they termed as mental and financial damages that they had suffered as a result of the agreement between the two governments back in 2015.
The agreement which was lauded internationally was meant to officially and permanently resolve the issue of South Korean women that were forced to work in Japan’s military brothels during the war.
Despite rejecting the damages suit, the court acknowledged the fact that the agreement made in 2015 between South Korea and Japan was shallow and it did not address all the issues faced by the comfort women group. Nonetheless, the court defended the government saying that the entire agreement cannot be quashed because of the flaws that it exhibits. It said that the efforts made by the government were positive and that the two governments still had an opportunity to address the pressing issues that were pending.
“The ruling made by the District Court today has legitimized the 2015 agreement between South Korea and Japan despite the comfort women testimonies and we clearly understand why. We are definitely going to contest this decision in the court of appeal” said the plaintiff’s lawyer.
The women also criticized the decision by the District courts judged saying that it went against an earlier ruling in 2011 by South Korea’s constitutional court. The constitutional court had downplayed the 2015 agreement between South Korea and Japan declaring it unconstitutional since it did not resolve the major issues that the comfort women had raised. The Court in its decision said that the women victims had not been adequately compensated and that the Japanese government had not shown any tangible measures of doing so.
The agreement which was signed in 2015 and witnessed by foreign ministers from both Japan and South Korea had sought to mend relations between the two countries for the sake of social and economic cooperation in the region. Although there was some resistance especially among civil rights groups in South Korea, many people and leaders around the world lauded the agreement terming it as the beginning of a new chapter of peace in the region.
Under the 2015 deal, Japan apologized the suffering South Korean comfort women had undergone in the hands of its military and pledged to pay up to $8.8 million as compensation to a South Korean Foundation that supports the victims. This agreement had been reached out by the two governments with the aim of restoring good relationships between the two countries that had greatly deteriorated over the years. The Japanese government expressed remorse for the victims and said that it regrets the actions the South Korean women had undergone.
The agreement has however not been fully implemented due to partial opposition from the victims and a section of the South Korean public. The victims allege that the agreement signed in 2015 did not take into account their grievances and was rushed through by a few people.
The lawsuit had been filed by the comfort women with the support of a civil rights group that has been fighting for the rights of comfort women stories. The civil groups and Korean comfort women, however, say that the ruling made by the court has not dampened their spirits to pursue justice. However, the two governments are determined to bring lasting relations between South Korea and Japan.