‘Comfort Women of the Empire’ Author Park Yu-ha Found Not Guilty of Defamation in Retrial Examining Academic Freedom of Speech

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Park Yu-ha’s book “Comfort Women of the Empire”

SEOUL — The Seoul High Court on Friday acquitted Park Yu-ha, professor emeritus at Sejong University in South Korea, of defamation charges in a retrial. Park was accused of damaging the reputation of former so-called comfort women with her academic book “Comfort Women of the Empire.”

Last October, the Supreme Court of Korea overturned the Seoul High Court’s ruling, which had fined Park 10 million won (approximately ¥1.1 million), stating that it was “appropriate to evaluate the book as an academic assertion or expression of opinion.” The case was then sent back to the High Court for a retrial.

In her book, Park described the human rights violations against women under Japanese imperialism, but also questioned the one-sided view of former comfort women as sex slaves of the former Japanese military. In 2015, prosecutors indicted Park without detention after receiving complaints from former comfort women.

The trial focused on issues such as freedom of speech and expression in academic research. While the first trial found Park not guilty, the High Court had overturned the verdict, stating that some passages in the book were “false.”