South Korea court dismisses ‘comfort women’ petition against deal with Japan
SEOUL, Dec 27: South Korea's Constitutional Court dismissed on Friday an appeal by a group of women forced to work in Japan's wartime military brothels to strike down an agreement signed by the two countries to settle claims over the abuse.
The ruling is expected to have little impact on the 2015 agreement as it has been effectively abandoned by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has called it seriously flawed and inadequate to resolve the issue that has been for many years a source of rancor between the neighbors.
Constitutional Court President Yoo Nam-seok said the agreement was a political one that tried to resolve the comfort women issue and, unlike a treaty between two countries, did not create legal responsibilities on the part of the governments.
Comfort women is a euphemism for the thousands of girls and women, most of them Korean, who were forced to work in Japan's brothels before and during World War Two, when Japan occupied Korea.
Bitterness over Japan's occupation of the Korean peninsula is a major influence on their relations and has been at the heart of rancor this year that has seen their ties plunge to their worst in decades.
The 2015 agreement, reached by Moon's conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was welcomed by the United States at the time as an important step toward reconciliation.
But surviving comfort women saw it as unjust and the constitutional petition was brought by 29 of them, and 12 of their families.
They argued that it violated their rights as they were not consulted when the governments agreed to close the matter as "irreversibly resolved" with an apology by Japan and a 1 billion yen ($9 million) fund to compensate the women. -REUTERS