Japan ordered to pay damages to WWII sex slavery victims

Seoul, Jan 8 (IANS) A Seoul court on Friday ordered the Japanese government to pay damages to South Korean victims who were forced into sex slavery during World War II.

The Seoul Central District Court ruled that Japan should pay reparations of 100 million won ($91,20) to each of 12 plaintiffs, who filed a petition for dispute settlement in August 2013, reports Xinhua news agency.

Out of the 12 plaintiffs joining the damages claim suit, only five are still alive.

Among the 238 South Korean women who identified themselves as former sex slaves, the number of survivors is 16.

It marked the first time that a court in South Korea handed a verdict to order Japan’s reparation payment to the victims.

The damages claim suit was only referred to the Seoul court in January 2016, and the first hearing was held in April 2020.

The court said in the ruling that the plaintiffs suffered from extreme, unimaginable mental and physical pain and were not even compensated for their suffering, noting that illegal acts by the accused can be acknowledged through evidence, relevant materials and testimonies.

The verdict noted that it would be reasonable to value the damages amount at over 100 million won.

According to historians, hundreds of thousands of Asian women, mostly from the Korean Peninsula, were kidnapped, coerced or duped into sexual servitude for Japanese troops before and during the Pacific War.

The Korean Peninsula was colonised by Japan from 1910 to 1945.

In December 2015, the then South Korean government reached a final, irreversible agreement with Japan to settle the wartime sex slave issue in return for Tokyo’s offer of 1 billion yen ($9.6 million), with which a foundation was built here to assist the South Korean victims and their families.

The foundation was formally dissolved in July 2019 as the victims protested against it, demanding the Japanese government’s sincere apology and its acknowledgment of legal responsibility for the wartime atrocities.

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