• Jiji, staff report


The Japanese government is cautious about filing a suit with the International Court of Justice against South Korea over a recent ruling related to former “comfort women” who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system before and during World War II.

The government is waiting to see what move Seoul will make after Friday’s ruling by Seoul Central District Court ordering Tokyo to pay damages to the former comfort women for the treatment they received in wartime.

“In view of the principle of sovereign immunity guaranteed by international law, the Japanese government must not be put under the jurisdiction of another country’s court,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a news conference Tuesday, stressing that South Korean should withdraw the order.

In Friday’s ruling, the Seoul court judged that the principle does not apply to the crime against humanity committed in the Korean Peninsula under Japanese rule.

Over wartime acts, the Italian Supreme Court allowed Italians to seek damages from Germany, judging that sovereign immunity did not apply to their case. Germany later won a suit filed with the ICJ against the ruling.

On Tuesday, many participants to a meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Foreign Affairs Division said the government should take strong countermeasures, including filing a lawsuit with the ICJ. A Foreign Ministry senior official said that the ministry is considering every possible option.

Even if the comfort women case is brought to the ICJ, the Hague-based court needs the consent of both parties to settle an international dispute.

The ICJ will examine the case if Seoul gives consent. But that means that the issue of comfort women, which Tokyo and Seoul agreed to end “finally and irreversibly” in 2015, will be brought to the table of international justice.

Comfort women, including Koreans, provided sex to Japanese soldiers in wartime brothels. They were forced or coerced into sexual servitude under various circumstances, including abduction, deception and poverty.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry source said there is no need to respond to the Seoul court’s judgment, which “lacks common sense.” A high-ranking government official said the case is unlikely to be brought to the ICJ.

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