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Court orders Tokyo to disclose assets in S. Korea by next March

Diplomacy 10:06 September 02, 2021

SEOUL, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- A local court has ordered the Japanese government to disclose its assets in South Korea by next March to pay compensation to Korean victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery, judicial sources said Thursday.

The Seoul Central District Court issued the order for Tokyo to submit a full list of its assets in South Korea as part of efforts to secure reparations for 12 "comfort women" who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops during World War II, setting the deadline at 10 a.m. on March 21, 2022.

This composite photo shows the busts of Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops during World War II and a South Korean courthouse. (Yonhap)

The submission of a full asset list is a procedure to confirm seizable properties ahead of the forcible execution of a court ruling.

The Korean women filed a request for a list of Tokyo's assets in South Korea in April after the Japanese government refused to comply with a January court ruling that ordered Tokyo to pay 100 million won (US$89,500) in reparations to each of the 12 plaintiffs.

It is the second time for the same Seoul court to issue such an order for Tokyo following the first one in June. The court handed down a similar order on June 9, citing the January ruling.

Judge Nam Seong-woo said at that time that any tensions that could result from the forced execution of the compensation ruling, such as a deterioration of South Korea's relations with Japan and economic retaliation, are the exclusive domain of the executive branch and go beyond the scope of the judiciary.

Days later, however, the Japanese government refused to comply with the Seoul court's order, calling it a violation of international law and a bilateral accord between the two countries.

Watchers say the likelihood of Tokyo complying with the latest court order on the March deadline is very low considering the neighboring country's positions on the issue.

Japan has invoked the doctrine of sovereign immunity to argue it is immune from all civil suits in foreign courts. It has also insisted that all claims related to its 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula were settled under a 1965 treaty that normalized bilateral ties.

The court has countered that the doctrine does not apply to "systematic crimes against humanity" and war crimes. Historians estimate that 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced to work in Japanese front-line brothels during the war.


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