• JIJI, kyodo, staff report


Seoul Central District Court decided Monday to put off the ruling set for Wednesday on a lawsuit filed by former wartime “comfort women,” who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system before and during World War II, demanding compensation from the Japanese government.

The court will resume proceedings for arguments on March 24. It did not provide any reason for the sudden change of schedule.

The plaintiffs filed the suit in December 2016, claiming that Japan committed systematic sexual violence during its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. They demanded compensation of up to 200 million won (about ¥19 million) per head.

The court finished hearing the plaintiffs’ arguments in November last year and was scheduled to hand down a ruling on Wednesday.

The Japanese government has not sent representatives to the court’s hearings on the suit on the grounds that it remains outside the jurisdiction of foreign courts under the principle of sovereign immunity guaranteed by international law.

In the first ruling on a lawsuit filed by former South Korean comfort women, the court ordered the Japanese government on Friday to pay 100 million won per head to a separate group of such women, who claim they were forced to serve as prostitutes for Japanese troops before and during World War II.

The Japanese government reacted sharply to the ruling, saying the verdict is unacceptable, and lodged a protest against the South Korean government. Japan’s position is that the issue of wartime compensation has already been settled by bilateral agreements.

Tokyo has no plans to appeal the ruling due to the principle of sovereign immunity.

According to the court, the ruling will become final on Jan. 23 unless Japan files an appeal.

In his New Year’s address on Monday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged to continue efforts for the sake of future-oriented development of relations between Japan and South Korea but made no remarks on the ruling last week.

The Moon government is taking a positive stance toward improving the soured ties with Japan, but has not offered specific solutions to these problems, which have provoked a backlash from Japan.

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