SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court on Friday ordered the Japanese government to pay $91,800 each to 12 Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japan’s troops during World War II. The ruling, the first of its kind in South Korea, is likely to aggravate the already chilly relations between Washington’s two key allies in Asia.
“The court recognizes that the accused committed illegal acts and that the plaintiffs suffered extreme psychological and physical pain hard to imagine,” Judge Kim Jeong-gon said in his decision.
The ruling is largely symbolic; the Japanese government said on Friday that the Korean court had no jurisdiction over Japan and that it would “never accept” the order. But the decision could further complicate Washington’s efforts to bring South Korea and Japan closer together to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat and China’s growing military influence in the region.
Though South Korea and Japan face similar threats from North Korea, there is a deep-seated mistrust between the two countries rooted in Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, from 1910 to 1945. The issue of the Japanese Army’s coercing Korean and other women into sexual slavery is the most emotional historical dispute keeping Seoul and Tokyo apart.
“This is a landmark ruling,” said an advocacy group in Seoul that speaks for the women who filed the lawsuits, the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.
A decision on another case, in which 11 women who had been forced into sexual slavery, known euphemistically as “comfort women,” are seeking similar compensation from Tokyo, is scheduled for Wednesday.
The advocacy group said that the lawsuits had been filed as part of
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