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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Han

The Central District Court of South Korea has rejected a lawsuit filed by former comfort women [...]

The Central District Court of South Korea has rejected a lawsuit filed by former comfort women seeking monetary damages from Japan.

Since the selection of South Korean President Moon Jae in 2017, there has been an insurgency on the issue of comfort women. The Korean Council as a support group had united, dedicating their time towards the controversy that allegedly claims to date back when Korea was under the imperial control of Japan from 1910-1945. On April 21, 2021, a South Korean court affirmed Japan's state immunity to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a group of women who worked in Japanese brothels during World War II, overturning a previous verdict that required Tokyo to pay compensation.

In hindsight, the president's tight ties to the activism wing have proven to be a political liability. For starters, there is the issue of massive theft of donations and government funds by the comfort women support group. Lawmaker Yoon Mee-Hyang, the former leader of the country's largest comfort women support group, was indicted with defrauding government agencies and private donors of nearly half a million dollars. According to the criminal charges filed against her, she used the funds for personal gain and to pay for her daughter's college expenses in the U.S. The controversy over comfort women has weakened and deteriorated diplomatic ties with Japan, and revelations like these add little to the legitimacy of such altercations.

The miscellanies of Japan's colonial rule of the Korean peninsula have always been a cause of contention for both sides. The Seoul Central District Court ruled in favor of former comfort women in a different trial in January, directing Japan to make restitution for the first time, deepening a rift between two countries. However, South Korea and Japan have settled the issue of property claims through the Claims Agreement in 1965 and both countries have agreed to finally and irreversibly solve the comfort women issue. On April 21, 2021, the same court granted Japan's state immunity, overturning the January ruling that said Japan could not claim impunity.

A diplomatic tiff between two countries is inevitable if the South Korean courts kept on entertaining the inconsistencies in the narratives of the comfort women, as well as their judgments, that is evident from the January ruling and its rebuttal. It is necessary to resolve the confrontation on the subject via bilateral consultations, and the 2015 agreement could lay the framework for a settlement. Under the agreement, Tokyo released an official apology again and paid 1 billion yen ($9.3 million) to the fund to assist former comfort women.

Alexander Han.

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