SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean courtroom on Friday ordered the Japanese authorities to pay $91,800 every to 12 Korean ladies stored as intercourse slaves for Japan’s troops throughout World Conflict II, in a ruling more likely to worsen the already chilly relations between Washington’s two key allies in Asia.
“The courtroom acknowledges that the accused dedicated unlawful acts and that the plaintiffs suffered excessive psychological and bodily ache exhausting to think about,” Decide Kim Jeong-gon mentioned in his ruling, which was the primary of its sort in South Korea.
The ruling is basically symbolic; the Japanese authorities mentioned on Friday that the Korean courtroom had no jurisdiction over Japan and that it might “by no means settle for” the order. However the determination may additional complicate Washington’s efforts to convey South Korea and Japan nearer collectively to counter North Korea’s nuclear menace and China’s rising navy affect within the area.
Although South Korea and Japan face related threats from North Korea, there’s a deep-seated distrust between the 2 international locations rooted in Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, from 1910 to 1945. The problem of the Japanese Military’s use of Korean and different ladies as intercourse slaves is essentially the most emotional historic dispute protecting Seoul and Tokyo aside.
“This can be a landmark ruling,” mentioned an advocacy group in Seoul that speaks for the ladies who filed the lawsuits, the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Problems with Army Sexual Slavery by Japan.
A ruling on one other case, through which 11 former intercourse slaves are in search of related compensation from Tokyo, is scheduled for Wednesday.
The advocacy group mentioned that the lawsuits had been filed as a part of the ladies’s try and confront the Japanese authorities, which they accused of whitewashing the historical past of wartime sexual slavery by its navy.
“The Japanese authorities ought to honor the ruling and pay the compensation instantly,” the group mentioned, including that a number of the ladies had died since submitting the lawsuits.
The plaintiffs within the civil lawsuit selected Friday filed their case with the Seoul Central District Court docket in 2013. They accused Japan of coercing or luring them into sexual slavery in wartime brothels run for the nation’s troops. Every demanded 100 million gained ($91,800) in compensation from the Japanese authorities. Two of the ladies, Bae Chun-hee and Kim Gun-ja, have since died.
Historians say that tens of hundreds of girls, lots of them Korean, have been within the frontline brothels from the early Thirties till 1945. It was not till 1991, when a South Korean girl named Kim Hak-soon made the primary public testimony on her painful wartime experiences, that the problem went world. A complete of two40 ladies have since come ahead in South Korea, however solely 16 — all of their 80s and 90s — are nonetheless alive.
Tokyo didn’t take part within the trial, refusing to just accept notices from the South Korean courtroom informing it of the authorized problem and asking for a response. The courtroom made the notices public on-line and held its first listening to in April of final 12 months.
Talking with reporters on Friday, Katsunobu Kato, chief cupboard secretary to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan, mentioned that the courtroom’s determination was “extraordinarily regrettable,” and that the Japanese authorities had formally protested to its South Korean counterpart.
“We’ve got repeatedly expressed that the Japanese authorities is just not topic to Korean jurisdiction beneath the precept of exemption from sovereignty beneath worldwide regulation,” Mr. Kato mentioned.
In its ruling, the courtroom mentioned that it couldn’t settle for the immunity declare as a result of the case concerned “anti-humanity acts systematically deliberate and perpetrated by the accused.”
Yoon Ji-hyun, director of Amnesty Worldwide Korea, mentioned that the ruling was vital as a result of it was “the primary time a South Korean courtroom held the Japanese authorities liable for the sexual slavery by the Japanese navy and opened the way in which to revive justice for the survivors.”
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of worldwide research at Ewha Womans College in Seoul, mentioned that Tokyo would deem the ruling “an escalation in a sample of weaponizing historical past and breaking worldwide agreements.”
He added, “The financial fallout will probably be troublesome to gauge in the course of the pandemic, however the diplomatic implication is to complicate the incoming Biden administration’s plans for trilateral cooperation to take care of North Korea and China.”
Relations between South Korea and Japan had already been frosty for years over one other situation from the colonia period: wartime slave labor. In 2018, South Korea’s Supreme Court dominated that Japanese corporations should compensate Korean males who had been pressured into labor throughout World Conflict II. Japan vehemently denounced the ruling.
Japan accused South Korea of undermining the 1965 treaty that established diplomatic ties between the 2 nations, beneath which Japan supplied South Korea with $500 million in help and low cost loans. Tokyo insisted that each one claims arising from its colonial rule, together with these involving pressured laborers and so-called consolation ladies, a euphemism for the intercourse slaves, had been settled by the treaty.
In 2019, Japan imposed export controls on South Korea in a transfer broadly seen as retaliation for the 2018 Supreme Court docket ruling. The commerce dispute quickly unfold to safety ties, with South Korea threatening to desert an intelligence-sharing agreement with Tokyo that Washington thought-about important to sustaining cooperation among the many three nations.
Seoul didn’t observe by with its menace. However on-and-off makes an attempt by each governments to slender their variations have gone nowhere. The ruling on Friday will almost certainly add to the unhealthy blood.
The international locations beforehand tried to shut the chapter on World Conflict II intercourse slaves, when Seoul and Tokyo introduced in December 2015 what they referred to as a “final and irreversible” settlement. Within the deal, Japan expressed duty and apologized anew to the ladies, promising to arrange an $8.3 million fund to assist present old-age care. Washington hailed the deal. However a number of the ladies have since rejected it, saying it didn’t specify Japan’s “authorized” duty or to offer official reparations.
President Moon Jae-in additionally denounced the deal on the election marketing campaign path, as his supporters thought-about it a part of the “pro-Japanese” legacies of his predecessor, President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached on fees of corruption and abuse of energy and ousted. After Mr. Moon took energy, one of many first issues he did was to effectively nullify the 2015 agreement.
Prosecutors additionally arrested a former chief justice of South Korea’s Supreme Court docket on fees of illegally conspiring with Ms. Park’s authorities to attempt to delay or manipulate courtroom rulings on Koreans in search of redress from Japan for pressured labor and sexual slavery in the course of the colonial period.
Motoko Wealthy contributed reporting from Tokyo.