Thursday, March 29, 2001

Reuters News Agency

Court stuns former 'comfort women'

TOKYO — A Japanese court overturned Thursday the only ruling ever to have ordered compensation for so-called "comfort women" forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during the Second World War.

The Hiroshima High Court turned down an April, 1998, ruling by a district court that ordered the government to pay ¥300,000 ($3,800) each to three South Korean women.

The plaintiffs appealed the 1998 ruling, saying that the amount of compensation was far below what they were seeking.

The three women and seven former forced labourers are seeking a total of ¥396-million ($5-million) in damages from the government, in addition to a public apology for their physical and mental suffering.

The plaintiffs said they were confined to brothels in Taiwan and Shanghai and forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers.

In Thursday's ruling, presiding judge Toshiaki Kawanami rejected the appeal, saying there is no obligation under present laws for Tokyo to compensate them, adding that the issue was for the parliament to decide, not the courts.

The ruling, like most others, is in line with the Japanese government's argument that it need not pay compensation to the women, as all claims were settled by peace treaties that formally ended the war.

Japan's top government spokesman said Thursday's ruling showed that Tokyo's views were vindicated.

"We believe that the defendant's (the government) views were upheld," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a news conference.

The South Korean women were enraged at the ruling.

"I hate the Japanese. I don't feel like thinking of anything for now," Pak Du-ri, 76, and one of the surviving two former sex slaves was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

Yang Gum-dok, 71, one of the former forced labourers, cried out in response to the ruling, "Why?," Kyodo said.

"We worked hard for the emperor," she was quoted as saying.

The nine surviving plaintiffs plan to appeal the ruling, Kyodo news agency quoted their lawyer, Seita Yamamoto, as saying.

Japan has been reluctant even to acknowledge the existence of comfort women, doing so only in 1992, and references to their plight appeared for the first time in Japanese school textbooks in 1994.

While Tokyo has refused to pay direct compensation, it has agreed to set up a private fund to offer reparations to the women.

A majority of the 200,000 women whom historians estimate were forced to provide sex for Japan's former Imperial Army were from the Korean Peninsula, which was then a Japanese colony.

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Created: March 29, 2001
Last modified: September 1, 2001
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