Japan hesitates to take Seoul to ICJ for ‘comfort women’

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The Japanese government is wary of bringing a complaint to the International Court of Justice against South Korea over a recent ruling involving former “comfort women” who suffered under the Japanese military brothel system before and during the Second World War.

The government is waiting to see what Seoul does after Friday’s Seoul Central District Court ruling ordering Tokyo to pay damages to former Comfort Women for the treatment they received in wartime.

“In view of the principle of sovereign immunity guaranteed by international law, the Japanese government should not be placed under the jurisdiction of a court in another country,” Cabinet secretary general Katsunobu Kato said on Tuesday at the meeting. ‘a press conference, stressing that the South Korean should withdraw the order.

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In Friday’s ruling, the Seoul court ruled that the principle did not apply to crimes against humanity committed on the Korean Peninsula under Japanese rule.

During acts of war, the Italian Supreme Court allowed the Italians to seek damages from Germany, ruling that sovereign immunity did not apply to their case. Germany subsequently won an ICJ case against the ruling.

Many participants at a meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Foreign Affairs Division on Tuesday said the government should take strong countermeasures, including filing a complaint with the ICJ. A senior foreign ministry official said the ministry was considering all possible options.

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Even if the comfort women case goes to the ICJ, the Hague tribunal needs the consent of both parties to settle an international dispute.

The ICJ will consider the case if Seoul consents. But this means that the issue of comfort women, which Tokyo and Seoul agreed to end “definitively and irreversibly” in 2015, will be brought to the table of international justice.

Comfort women, including Koreans, provided sex to Japanese soldiers in war brothels. They were forced or coerced into sexual servitude in various circumstances, including kidnapping, deception and poverty.

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A source from the Japanese Foreign Ministry said there was no need to respond to the Seoul court ruling, which “lacks common sense.” A senior government official said the case would likely not go to the ICJ.

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