A Universal Judgment Based on Universal Human Rights

The Korean Council
26 February 2021, 3rd International Symposium
Restoring the Right to Justice and Truth

A Universal Judgment Based on Universal Human Rights

Lee, Sang-hee
  Lawyer, MINBYUN - Lawyers for a Democratic Society
Keynote Speech: Korean Court's Historic Ruling in January 2021

1. Reasons They Stood Before the Court

1) Japanese military “comfort women” victims have been fighting to restore their dignity for nearly three decades. Their struggle has challenged the state-centered international legal order and has contributed to shifting the international community’s focus from state to “people." I believe the Seoul District Court ruling on January 8 may be the last heritage, a bill of rights, given to us by the victims of World War II.

2) Throughout Japanese colonial rule and World War II, the victims were forced into sexual slavery as “comfort women.” The 1965 Agreement on the Settlement of Problem concerning Property and Claims and the Economic Cooperation between the Republic of Korea and Japan (hereinafter the 1965 Korea-Japan Claims Agreement) was largely in favor of the trilateral Korea-U.S.-Japan alliance, and therefore the victims' voices were completely ignored. For instance, discussions on crimes against humanity could not even be proceeded during the agreement talks. Following as Kim Hak-soon’s public testimony and the release of official documents indicating the Japanese military’s direct involvement in the recruitment of “comfort women,” Japanese political leaders announced the 1993 Kono Statement and the 1995 Murayama Statement. Yet these statements did not acknowledge the legal responsibilities and resulted in the perpetuation of the 1965 Korea-Japan Claims Agreement system.

Therefore, the victims filed lawsuits in Japan and the United States, in order to hold the Japanese government accountable and to reveal human rights violations of war and colonization. The victims lost every case. ....

Download PDF