SEOUL – 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.