South Korean former sex slaves launch court case against Japan

(From agencies)

Ten South Korean women who say they were used as sex slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II have relaunched a lawsuit for damages, local media reported Thursday, just days after Seoul and Tokyo reached a deal aimed at resolving the long-running and bitter row, dpa reports.

South Koreans Gil Won-Ok (L) and Lee Young-Soo,, who were forced to serve the Japanese Imperial Army as sex slaves during World War II, shed tears during a rally against the Japanese government, near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul Dec 30

Gil Won-Ok (L) and Lee Young-Soo, who were forced to serve the Japanese Imperial Army as sex slaves, shed tears during a rally in Seoul Dec 30

The lawsuit was first launched in 2013 by 12 South Korean women, but it went to a mediation process which was then rejected by the Japanese government, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The Seoul District Court on Wednesday formally ended the mediation process. Two of the women have died since the group first sought damages.

The plaintiffs reject the agreement sealed by Japan and South Korea earlier this week, saying that it does not amount to an admission of legal responsibility for sexual slavery.

As part of the agreement, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologized for the use of so-called “comfort women” and said Japan would provide 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) to a foundation to be set up by South Korea to support elderly Korean survivors.

Up to 200,000 women, many of whom were Koreans, were forced into sexual slavery for the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II, historians say. The Korean peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule between 1910 and 1945.

Among 238 women registered with the South Korean government as victims of sexual slavery, 192 have died, leaving 46 registered victims still alive.

Students stage surprise rally

Dozens of college students  gathered in front of the local police station on Thursday after holding an unauthorized demonstration near Japan’s embassy in Seoul in protest against the South Korea-Japan agreement on former sex slaves during World War II, police said.

A total of 30 students were under investigation on charges of staging the surprise rally at the lobby of a building where the members of the embassy’s staff have been temporarily relocated for the rebuilding of the original one.

They are suspected of chanting and holding banners saying “South Korean citizens are against the deal” or that “Japan should make a legal compensation.”

Under South Korean law, those wanting to hold a rally should first report to the authorities.

The students, in addition to some 20 others, had stayed up all night in front of the original embassy building under reconstruction since Wednesday after a weekly rally ended, saying they would protect a statue of a girl symbolizing the victims, police said.

Civic groups supporting the victims said they will hold a candlelight vigil every evening in front of the statue to prevent it from being moved and to oppose the deal.

‘Japan fund linked to statue removal’

Japan’s fund to help women forced into its wartime military brothels will be contingent on removal of the statue, a Japanese government source said in Tokyo Wednesday, Kyodo reports.

The source said the South Korean government recognizes that Japan’s disbursement of the money Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said will total 1 billion yen to the new fund is contingent upon the removal of the statue.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se told a group of South Korean reporters Wednesday that Seoul will urge Tokyo to refrain from behaviors “that could cause misunderstanding,” in an apparent reference to reports on Japan’s intention to link the fund with the fate of the statue.

The removal of the statue was not mentioned as a condition for the Japanese financial aid in a joint announcement released by Kishida and Yun after their talks in Seoul on Monday.

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