A South Korean court on Wednesday ruled against the South Korean sex slavery victims during World War II demanding damages from the Japanese government, contradicting a ruling rendered by the same court three months earlier.
A judge at the Seoul Central District Court dismissed the case brought by 20 wartime sex enslavement victims, euphemistically called "comfort women," and their bereaved families, citing a sovereign immunity that allows a state to be immune from civil suit in foreign courts.
The court ruled that if any exception of the sovereign immunity is accepted, a diplomatic conflict can be inevitable, saying the 2015 agreement, reached by South Korea and Japan, met diplomatic requirements though opinion was not collected from the victims in the process of negotiations.
Seoul and Tokyo agreed in December 2015 to "finally and irreversibly" settle the issue on Korean women, who were forced into sexual slavery for the Imperial Japan's military brothels under the 1910-45 Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
A Japan-funded foundation for the comfort women was launched in Seoul in July 2016, but it was dissolved three years later under harsh criticism from the victims and civic activists who demanded sincere apology and legal responsibility of the Japanese government.
The Seoul court's ruling was in a stark contrast to the verdict handed down by a different judge at the same court in January, which ordered the Japanese government to pay reparations of 100 million won (about 90,000 U.S. dollars) to each of 12 plaintiffs.
Historians said as many as 400,000 women from Asian countries, including many from China and the Korean Peninsula, were forced into sex enslavement for Japanese military brothels before and during WWII.