• Asia-Pacific

Seoul High Court Orders Japan to Pay Compensation for Comfort Women (Update 1)

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The South Korean flag

SEOUL (Jiji Press) — The Seoul High Court on Thursday overturned a lower court ruling and ordered the Japanese government to pay 200 million won, or about ¥23 million, each in compensation to former “comfort woman” Lee Yong-soo and others.

The high court’s decision came despite the Japanese government’s position that the lawsuit should be dismissed under the principle of sovereign immunity under international law, or the principle that sovereign nations are not subject to the jurisdiction of other countries.

Lee and 15 other plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in 2016, seeking an exception to this principle. In April 2021, the Seoul Central District Court dismissed the lawsuit, noting that if sovereign immunity is ignored, a diplomatic conflict would be inevitable.

The district court also upheld the validity of a 2015 Japan-South Korea agreement to finally and irreversibly resolve the issue of comfort women, or Korean prostitutes for Japanese troops before and during World War II.

In a separate comfort women case, the same district court ordered the Japanese government to pay compensation in January 2021. This ruling later became final because the government did not appeal to a higher court. However, the government has not complied with the compensation order.