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Japan court rules against 'comfort women'

Most of the estimated 200,000 comfort women were from the Korean Peninsula
Most of the estimated 200,000 comfort women were from the Korean Peninsula  

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Confined to brothels

Outraged women

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TOKYO, Japan -- A Japanese court has overturned the only ruling ordering compensation for "comfort women" forced to provide sex to soldiers in World War II.

The High Court turned down a 1998 ruling by a district court that ordered the government to pay $2,453 each to three South Korean women.

Judge Toshiaki Kawanami rejected the appeal, saying there is no obligation under present laws for Tokyo to compensate them, adding that the issue was for the parliament to decide, not the courts.

The ruling, like most others, is in line with the Japanese government's argument that it need not pay compensation to the women as all claims were settled by peace treaties that formally ended the war.

Confined to brothels

The three Korean women and seven former forced laborers are seeking a total of $3.25 million in damages from the government, in addition to a public apology for their physical and mental suffering.

The plaintiffs appealed the 1998 district court ruling, saying the amount of compensation was far below what they were seeking. . The plaintiffs said they were confined to brothels in Taiwan and Shanghai and forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers.

Japan's top government spokesman said Thursday's ruling showed that Tokyo's views were vindicated.

"We believe that the defendant's [the government] views were upheld," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda told a news conference.

Outraged women

The South Korean women were outraged at the ruling.

"I hate the Japanese. I don't feel like thinking of anything for now," Pak Du-ri, 76, and one of the surviving two former sex slaves was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

Yang Gum-dok, 71, one of the former forced laborers, cried out in response to the ruling, "Why?," Kyodo said.

"We worked hard for the emperor," she was quoted as saying. The nine surviving plaintiffs plan to appeal the high court ruling.

Japan has been reluctant to even acknowledge the existence of comfort women, doing so only in 1992, and references to their plight appeared for the first time in Japanese school textbooks in 1994.

While Tokyo has refused to pay direct compensation, it has agreed to set up a private fund to offer reparations to the women.

A majority of the 200,000 women whom historians estimate were forced to provide sex for Japan's former Imperial Army were from the Korean Peninsula, which was then a Japanese colony.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Asiaweek article
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Feburary 23, 2001

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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