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Japan court orders government to disclose treaty with Korea on sex slavery

The Tokyo District Court [official website, in Japanese] ruled Wednesday that the Japanese government must disclose part of a 1965 treaty between Japan and South Korea regarding sexual slavery employed by Japan during wartime. The District Court ruled in favor [Korea Herald report] of 11 Japanese and Korean activists representing the descendants of enslaved sex workers known as comfort women [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Although Japan has insisted that the 1965 treaty established that South Korea would not seek any further compensation for victims of sexual slavery during Japanese colonial rule from 1910-1945, the court ordered Japan to disclose information on 117 cases that it has sealed for the past 40 years. The court's decision comes just weeks after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda [NYT backgrounder] declared that the 1965 normalization treaty firmly settled the issue of compensation [Daily Yomiuri report] to comfort women. It is unclear if the Japanese government plans to appeal the decision.

In 2009 North Korea urged Japan's government to apologize [JURIST report] for its use of comfort women during World War II. The Liberal Democrats [party website], the party of former prime minister Shinzo Abe [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], have denied that the Japanese Army officially forced women to become prostitutes. In July 2007 the US House of Representatives passed a resolution [JURIST report] calling on Japan to apologize for its use of comfort women during WWII. Abe dismissed the resolution [JURIST report], claiming it was based on erroneous information [JURIST report] and that the women were professional prostitutes paid for their services. Abe has expressed sympathy and apologized [JURIST report] for the "situation" faced by so-called "comfort women" but stopped short of explicitly acknowledging the alleged roles of the wartime military and government in facilitating the practice. Japan has previously accepted that Japanese soldiers coerced [JURIST report] women into prostitution but denied government involvement.

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