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South Korean court rejects former ‘comfort women’ appeal in Japan assets case

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A South Korean court has dismissed an appeal from a group of former “comfort women” over a decision not to approve the seizure of Japanese government assets that was sought to pay legal costs for a damages lawsuit against the government over their treatment at Japanese military brothels during World War II.

The group of 12 women won a ruling in January at the Seoul Central District Court that ordered the Japanese government to pay the damages over their treatment at the military brothels. The term comfort woman is a euphemism for women who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system before and during World War II.

But the court said Friday it rejected the appeal regarding the seizure of Japanese government assets as it was filed after the deadline for an immediate complaint.

The plaintiffs filed the appeal at the court on Monday.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they plan to file a protest against the decision.

The appeal was dismissed Friday by the same judge who rejected the plaintiffs’ request for the seizure of Japanese government assets in March, citing that doing so could violate international law.

However, in a decision issued last week, a district judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs’ request to order the Japanese government to disclose its South Korean-held assets.

The two contrary decisions underscore the mixed opinions among judges over whether the assets can be seized or not.

Japan has taken the position that all claims related to its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula were settled “completely and finally” under a 1965 bilateral agreement under which it provided financial aid to Seoul.

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