In times of war, some women were made to work in brothels to provide comfort to the men who were fighting for Japan. This act by the government has long been a hot-button issue in both Japan and South Korea, but a solution was finally able to be reached in 2015. Korean comfort women decided to file a suit against this agreement and the government overall.
Twelve former women who worked in this capacity sued the government in a South Korean court. They were asking for a settlement of one hundred million Won because of the mental damage and financial troubles they’d experienced being forced to work in Japan’s wartime brothels. This lawsuit being raised in the Seoul District Court asked for compensation for their time and suffering.
The comfort women’s stories are from 1932 and 1945. For thirteen years these brothels were set up all over Japan to provide comfort for soldiers during the wars. These stations were set up in Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Hong Kong and several other places during World War II. At the end of the war at least eleven Japanese officers were punished for the treatment of the women in the brothels with one being sentenced to death. Japan made efforts to right the wrongs and continues to do so.
In the Seoul Courthouse, the judge and jury listened to comfort women’s testimonies with sympathetic ears. The suit wrapped up with the government denying they would give the women one hundred million each. In 2015, South Korea made an agreement with Japan to irreversibly settle the issue of the comfort women and move forward. This ruling said the 2015 decision would be upheld and the South Korean comfort women would not receive any more in damages.
The agreement between Japan and South Korea was a favorable one with the public and most of the victims. It made the government recognize the suffering of the former comfort women and apologize in a very public way. In addition to apologizing, they also donated a billion dollars to a foundation that was put in place to support former comfort women. The court ruled in the suit while the agreement could use a little clarification the government in no way acted illegally and the ruling will stand.
An article on thediplomat.com discusses why the agreement is good for everyone. First, the Prime Minister directly apologized and showed remorse.
The agreement allowed both countries to agree that the issue was finally resolved and it could be put behind them as part of their history. Since the decision was irreversible it makes sense the women’s latest lawsuit was rejected by the court. Both governments are prepared to stay committed to the agreement against any criticism they may face. This display of solidarity is comforting to people on both sides. With the issues facing the world and the actions of North Korea of late, it’s important for Japan and the South Korean government to stay strong and remain allies.