/

Seoul court orders South Korean scholar to pay compensation in ‘comfort women’ defamation case

Kyodo, JIJI

A Seoul court has ordered a South Korean professor to pay nine former “comfort women” 10 million won (about $8,300, ¥970,000) each for mental distress over a controversial book.

The Seoul Eastern District Court on Wednesday delivered the ruling to Park Yu-ha, 58, a professor of Japanese literature at Seoul’s Sejong University, who was indicted on Nov. 19 without being detained.

Park’s book, “Comfort Women of the Empire,” which was first published in South Korea in 2013, has drawn a storm of criticism for taking Japan’s side on the issue of females forced into wartime brothels for the Japanese military.

In June, the plaintiffs filed a defamation suit against Park and the head of the publishing company, accusing them of depicting the women as prostitutes and impugning their honor.

The plaintiffs demanded 30 million won each.

“The fact that the Japanese government and military were involved directly or indirectly in recruiting the comfort women is accepted based on diverse U.N. rapporteurs . . . and other domestic research results,” the court ruling said, according to Yonhap News Agency.

“The comfort women’s dignity as human beings was obliterated as they were forced into the sexual service, deprived of the minimum freedom to humane life and personal liberty.”

The court rejected Park’s claim that her expressions pertained to “academic freedom,” saying, “the right to respect the victims’ personal integrity is relatively more important than the protection of academic freedom while the victims are alive.”

The court found the book’s publisher, however, was not liable for defamation.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga refrained from directly commenting on the ruling, saying only, “It is important that freedom of expression be guaranteed in any country.”

A lawyer for the plaintiffs welcomed the result, saying that the judgment was correct, although the compensation was less than what the women demanded.

In a separate suit that sought to halt the book’s publication, the same district court last February ordered the removal of some passages in the book.

Park has also been indicted without arrest on criminal charges.

Many of the victims were from the Korean Peninsula, which was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.

  • Tachomanx

    So much for freedom of expression, press and academy in Korea. Go against the “official version” of things and you get the hammer!

    And they have the gall to accuse others of revisionism…

    • 69station

      Yes, and how ironic that they force others to pay the women when the President’s grandfather didn’t let them have any of the huge amount of money the Korean government received from the Japanese, decades ago.

    • AJ

      She didn’t get the hammer, she lost a lawsuit of competing interests on free expression between her right to write history but in a way survivors of that history find demeaning to their own experiences. She still has the right to appeal and other reports say she has indicated she plans to file it.

      Nothing about that system of due process is a denial of rights or the freedom of expression. It would be exactly the same had she won the lawsuit because both sides got their day in court.

      • KenjiAd

        Nothing about that system of due process is a denial of rights or the freedom of expression.

        Right. The ruling simply meant that, if your freedom of expression hurt someone’s feeling, you may have to pay for it (or even go to jail). While the idea here is unthinkable in a country like America, it is not unusual in many Asian countries. Japan’s libel/defamation law, for example, doesn’t automatically recognize ‘truth’ as the absolute defense.

        I’m usually supportive of the idea that some legal remedies should be available to a person whose dignity, reputation, or “face” was damaged by someone’s speech.

        But the requirement for successful libel/defamation lawsuit must be very high, or the system can be abused to silence certain opinions.

        Furthermore, in my opinion, the defendant being an academician (or journalist for that matter) should make it harder for the plaintiff to win the defamation lawsuit.

        What is distressing in this case is that the defendant was just doing her job. It was her professional duty to publish what she has found.

        The court is saying that, well, even if you are an academician, be careful what you say. I don’t think that’s a healthy environment for any research into controversial topics.

      • AJ

        Actually, the idea is quite common in the West with regards to litigation about Holocaust denial, although it seems to be more common that somebody labeled a Holocaust denier sues the publisher. In those cases, the issue is not necessarily to prove the Holocaust but that any reasonable historian cannot doubt that such events occurred (e.g. no reasonable historian can provide evidence to deny gas chambers existed at Auschwitz and were used to kill people en masse). For what it’s worth, in the vast majority of cases, the Holocaust denier has lost.

        The logic here seems to be similar, although the article is very unclear about what exactly the Korean court ruled with regards to the historical issues.

        I would conclude to the contrary of your position. Academics should be held to a higher standard of conduct and it should be easier to punish them for hurtful remarks because they are supposed to present the best conclusions based on neutral and impartial research. Their views aren’t free speech so much as representing a professional (professorial?) opinion.

      • AJ

        Actually, the idea is quite common in the West with regards to litigation about Holocaust denial, although it seems to be more common that somebody labeled a Holocaust denier sues the publisher. In those cases, the issue is not necessarily to prove the Holocaust but that any reasonable historian cannot doubt that such events occurred (e.g. no reasonable historian can provide evidence to deny gas chambers existed at Auschwitz and were used to kill people en masse). For what it’s worth, in the vast majority of cases, the Holocaust denier has lost.

        The logic here seems to be similar, although the article is very unclear about what exactly the Korean court ruled with regards to the historical issues.

        I would conclude to the contrary of your position. Academics should be held to a higher standard of conduct and it should be easier to punish them for hurtful remarks because they are supposed to present the best conclusions based on neutral and impartial research. Their views aren’t free speech so much as representing a professional (professorial?) opinion.

      • CLJF

        On the contrary, in countries such as the US it is becoming increasingly common to force legal remedy/punishment on people who express views that hurt people’s feeling, particularly if those feelings happen to accord with the views of the government.

  • Tachomanx

    So much for freedom of expression, press and academy in Korea. Go against the “official version” of things and you get the hammer!

    And they have the gall to accuse others of revisionism…

  • http://www.codoh.com Jett_Rucker

    Holocaust “denial” all over again.

    It is, and must be, a crime everywhere in the world to say anything which displeases Jett Rucker.

    So watch out, all you people!