Bringing historicity to the logic of sexual violence

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

On the January 8, 2021 Seoul Central District Court ruling:
Bringing historicity to the logic of sexual violence in armed conflict

Yang, Hyunah   Professor, Seoul National University School of Law & Chair, Research Network on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery
Panel 1 Tackling Impunity of Wartime Sexual Violence

1. Points of Paradox
The legal resolution of the Japanese military "comfort women" issue has been in a state of a dead end, blind spot, or contradiction for a long time. Therefore, the Seoul Central District Court’s January 8, 2021 ruling on the lawsuit filed against Japan by Japanese military “comfort women” (hereafter Seoul Central District Court ruling) carries monumental significance.

* Crimes committed under the Japanese military sexual slavery system are not only limited to sexual violence, but also include forced mobilization, forced transport of women, detainment in “comfort stations,” beating, torture, surveillance, forced sterilization and pregnancy, and post-war neglect causing the victims’ inability to return to their home countries. Undoubtedly, these human rights violations are nothing short of universally condemned acts that constitute “crimes against humanity” (2000 Women's International War Crimes Tribunal, ICJ Report, 1994). Courts in Japan and the United States have dismissed or reserved judgment on lawsuits filed by the plaintiffs, insisting that they are “diplomatic matters,” even though crimes against humanity should be prosecuted under “universal jurisdiction” that transcends space and time.

* The ruling articulates that the Japanese military sexual slavery system constituted “crimes against humanity committed systematically and extensively by Imperial Japan in violation of international jus cogens.” However, violence against women and violence in armed conflicts, in particular, had not been punished in court until recently, in the 1990s. ...

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