A court in South Korea’s capital has ordered Tokyo to compensate women who were forced to work in Japan’s military brothels before and during World War II, leaving Japan fuming and labelling the decision as “utterly unacceptable.”
On Friday, Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, said his country cannot accept the decision of the Seoul District Court, which ordered the Japanese government to compensate 12 women who were forced to work in its colonial-era brothels.
The ruling, considered to be the first of its kind, sees the Japanese government held responsible for the sexual abuse of Korean women, euphemistically known as ‘comfort women’, during Tokyo’s 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula.
“The plaintiffs seem to have suffered extreme mental and physical pain,” the court said, ruling that Japan must pay 100 million won ($91,000) to each of the surviving women and family members of those who died.
The Seoul court has also rejected claims that Tokyo can invoke its exemption from foreign country jurisdiction, stating that Japan “violated international norms by committing intentional, systematic and wide-ranging inhumane criminal acts.”
The Japanese Foreign Ministry immediately lodged a protest over the decision.
According to the Japanese government, its Foreign Ministry summoned South Korean Ambassador Nam Gwan-pyo and informed him that that the ruling was “extremely regrettable” and “utterly unacceptable.”
Japan had refused to send representatives to the court proceedings, believing the judgement should be dismissed on grounds of state immunity. Suga has called for the ruling to be dropped. Japan has continued to maintain that all compensation issues were resolved under a 1965 treaty that restored their bilateral relations.
The issue of comfort women has long been a bone of tension between Japan and South Korea.
Some historians estimate that up to 200,000 Korean girls and women were sexually abused by Japanese troops during the colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.
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