24, November, 2023
A South Korean court has ordered Japan to compensate a group of women who were forced to work in military brothels during World War Two.
The 16 women, who were kept as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers, previously had their case dismissed.
They filed a lawsuit in 2016 but Seoul Central District Court dismissed it five years later, citing sovereign immunity.
The Seoul High Court have now overturned the ruling.
In a statement the court said it recognises South Korea's jurisdiction over the Japanese government because the women lived in the country and sought compensation for acts deemed "unlawful".
"It is reasonable to consider that there is a common international law which does not recognise state immunity for an illegal act... regardless of whether the act was a sovereign act".
Lee Yong-soo, a 95-year-old activist and victim was emotional as she thanked the court for the ruling.
As she left the courthouse she told reporters "I'm grateful. I'm really grateful".
She added that she wished she could tell all the victims who had already passed away about the verdict.
It's estimated that more than 200,000 women and girls were forced into prostitution to serve Japanese soldiers in World War Two.
Many of those kept in military brothels were Korean, others were from mainland China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan.
Japan's Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa called the ruling "extremely regrettable and absolutely unacceptable".
"Japan once again strongly urges the Republic of Korea to immediately take appropriate measures to remedy the status of its breaches of international law," she said.