All networks reported at noon that the Seoul Central District Court dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of 20 former comfort women and their family members seeking damages from the Japanese government over their treatment during WWII. The court cited sovereign immunity, a concept under international law in which a state is immune from the civil jurisdiction of a court in a foreign country. The same court had ordered the Japanese government to pay damages to the plaintiffs in a similar lawsuit in January.
In addition, NHK reported on the finding that the South Korean district court released a statement on March 29 saying that seizing assets of the Japanese government to secure court fees “might violate international law” and have “serious consequences, such as undermining the trust of the judiciary.” The district court reportedly concluded in the statement that there are no court fees that can be collected from the Japanese government. The network noted, however, that the statement only refers to the seizing of assets to secure court fees and not to secure compensation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato reportedly told the press this morning: “This differs from the ruling by the district court in Seoul on January 8. I will refrain from commenting as we still need to closely examine the contents of the ruling.” Meanwhile, when asked whether he believes there has been a shift in South Korea’s stance, Kato reportedly answered: “Japan’s position on the matter remains fundamentally the same. We will continue to strongly call on South Korea to take measures to rectify its violation of international law.” NHK quoted a senior MOFA official as saying: “Although we need to closely examine the contents of the ruling, it is in line with the position of the Japanese government. The plaintiffs will probably appeal the ruling. We will closely monitor the position of the South Korean government on the ruling.” Another senior MOFA official reportedly said: “The previous ruling was abnormal. The latest ruling is very normal and reasonable.” When asked whether the ruling would have a positive impact on Japan-ROK relations, the official responded: “Definitely not. The bilateral relationship is already on the verge of hitting bottom. The ruling has not turned it around. The relationship is still very strained.”