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Monday, 27 April, 1998, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Wartime 'sex slaves' get compensation
A former comfort woman cries at a demonstration outside the Japanese embassy in South Korea
A former comfort woman cries at a demonstration outside the Japanese embassy in South Korea
For the first time a Japanese court has ruled that Korean women are entitled to compensation from the Japanese government for being forced to act as sex slaves during the Second World War.

The Yamaguchi District Court has ordered the government to pay 300,000 yen ($2,280) to each of three South Korean plaintiffs.

The judge, Hideaki Chikashita, reportedly called the suffering of the former sex slaves a violation of human rights and an example of sexual and ethnic discrimination. He added that it continued after the war.

"The government has the duty to take action to compensate for the suffering of the former sex slaves", he said.

The court turned down their demand for an official apology from the Japanese government, however, and the women had asked for a total of 564m ($4.3m) in compensation.

The court ruled against seven others who were forced to work in factories during the war.

"These women will fight until they get an official apology from Japan and individual compensation from the government," said Tadashi Shirakawa, a spokesperson for Supporting Elder Women, which has a membership of 500-1,000 in Japan.

"Their fight will be getting tougher as they are now very old," she added.

Other governments have offered aid

Up to 200,000 women are estimated to have been forced to serve in Japanese military brothels, including Dutch women and other Asians as well as Koreans.

The Japanese government has consistently refused to pay individual recompense to comfort women and other victims of war, saying the issue was taken care of in the past by government to government treaties.

The government officially admitted the existence of the military brothels in 1992, and the lawsuit was filed in that year.

A tax-deductible private Asian Women's Fund was set up in 1995 and offers a lump sum of $17,000 to surviving victims, but only seven have so far accepted payment from it, saying they wanted compensation and an apology directly from the Japanese government.

On Sunday the South Korean government announced plans to give $25,000 to 150 of Korean women. Taiwan announced similar plans in late 1997. The South Korean government says it hopes to claim the money back from Japan in future.

BBC News
BBC's Tokyo correspondent: "What they really wanted was an apology" (1'23)
See also:

29 Mar 98 | Despatches
Korean comfort women compensated
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