A South Korean court on Wednesday rejected a claim by South Korean sexual slavery victims and their relatives who sought compensation from the Japanese government over their wartime sufferings.
Activists representing sexual slavery victims denounced the decision and said the Seoul Central District Court was ignoring their struggles to restore the women’s honour and dignity.
The court ruled that the Japanese government should be exempt from civil jurisdiction under the principles of international law, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
The same court in January had called for the Japanese government to give 100 million won ($89,000) each to a separate group of 12 women who sued in 2013 over their wartime suffering as sex slaves, which was the first such ruling in South Korea.
Japanese officials had angrily rejected the January ruling, accusing South Korea of making “illegal” demands and undermining international law and bilateral relations.
The ruling came as the Asian US allies struggle to repair their relations that sank to post-war lows in recent years over history, trade, and military issues.
Japan insists all wartime compensation issues were settled under a 1965 treaty normalising relations with South Korea in which Tokyo provided $500 million in economic assistance to Seoul.
Tens of thousands of women across Japanese-occupied Asia and the Pacific were moved to front-line brothels used by the Japanese military. About 240 South Korean women registered with the government as victims of sexual slavery by Japan’s wartime military — only 15 of whom are still alive.