A lawsuit filed by several South Korean victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery over a 2015 agreement between the two countries was settled Thursday in a court arbitration in which the government in Seoul agreed to deny the deal's validity and vowed continued efforts to help regain the victims' honor, legal sources said.
Kang Il-chul and eight other surviving South Korean victims filed the suit against the government in August 2016 demanding 100 million won ($86,000) per person in compensation for damage caused by the 2015 deal. A lower court dismissed the suit in April 2018 and the plaintiffs appealed the ruling.
The Seoul High Court issued the compulsory mediation order Thursday in which the government has to recognize that the deal did not resolve the so-called comfort women dispute and must pledge to continue to make efforts to recover the plaintiffs' dignity and honor.
While not mentioning compensation, the statement called on the plaintiffs to accept the government's position as an act of taking responsibility.
The two sides have two weeks to raise objections, but sources said both would accept the arbitration.
Seoul and Tokyo reached a landmark deal in December 2015 to address the comfort women issue and established a Tokyo-funded foundation to support them. But the South Korean government disbanded the foundation later amid criticism that the deal was signed without sufficiently consulting victims or a sincere apology from Japan.
Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court is scheduled to make a ruling on Friday on a petition the former comfort women filed in 2016 claiming the 2015 deal is unconstitutional.
Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese troops during World War II. (Yonhap)