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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Han

You must abandon the idea of accepting a court decision based on anti-Japanese sentiment...

You must abandon the idea of accepting a court decision based on anti-Japanese sentiment even if it breaches international law.

The Seoul Central District Court dismissed a damages lawsuit of former comfort women against the Japanese government. The Seoul Central District Court ruled in favor of victims in another trial with the same content this January. The opposite judgment was rendered in 3 months. The plaintiffs’ win has already been confirmed in the first trial because the Japanese government did not respond to it. This is an unprecedented judicial confusion.

No one denies Japan’s comfort women crime in South Korea. All Koreans are furious and agree to the relief of the victims. Judges may feel the same way as they are human beings. However, the trial is a different story. Judges have to follow legal ethics from beginning to end. The core of this trial was not to determine Japan’s guilt or innocence but to decide ‘whether the Korean Court can judge the Japanese government”, or the applicability of ‘state immunity’. Most countries have accepted state immunity for similar war crimes and ruled even against victims of their own country. This is also true for judgements in the International Court of Justice. It means that the problem should be solved by diplomacy but not law. Reasonable International standard is like this. The Korean Court followed public sentiment in the first trial in January, but it obeyed the universal ethics of the world courts in the second trial in April.

A judicial confusion this time was caused mainly by Moon Jae-in administration itself. Moon administration dissolved the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, recovered Japanese contributions and virtually abandoned the 2015 Korea-Japan comfort women agreement. It completely neglected diplomatic efforts. So far, Moon administration called former comfort women to various national holiday events and held only anti-Japanese events for domestic consumption. As soon as he needs Japan for a North-South event, President Moon suddenly said, “Honestly, I am bewildered by the ruling” regarding the January ruling in which former comfort women won. It does not seem that he is the same person who was agitating anti-Japanese sentiment until a while ago.

This time, the Korean Court judged that the 2015 Korea-Japan comfort women agreement has a judicial meaning, and that this is still valid. This is a commonsense and rational judgement. The comfort women issue is an international issue. We cannot win international support unless it is rational and legitimate. However, in one corner of the Korean Court, it is recognized that making an unjust judgement is accepted and applauded if it is based on anti-Japanese sentiment. A person like Yoon Mee-hyang was able to exploit former comfort women because she took advantage of such an atmosphere. True victim relief will become possible only by breaking with this standard.


The Chosun Ilbo (April 22, 2021)

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