Court orders South Korea to compensate lepers for abuse

SEOUL (AFP) - A South Korean court ruled on Wednesday in favour of a group of leprosy patients seeking compensation from the government for forced abortions and sterilsation, in the latest ruling that sheds light on decades-long abuses.

Seoul Central District Court said each of he 135 lepers who filed the suit against the government in 2012 should receive 30 million (S$36,633) to 40 million won.

"This is another landmark ruling that recognises the government's responsibility to protect lepers who were one of the most vulnerable minorities in our society," said Park Young-Lip, the lawyer for the victims.

The latest ruling is the third in favour of lepers seeking redress from the government for abuses including being forced to live on a distant southern island, until the law was removed in 1963.

Up until the 1990s, hundreds of lepers underwent forced sterilisation before being allowed to marry, while those women who did become pregnant were forced to abort.

Leprosy is a contagious bacterial disease which can be cured with a sustained course of antibiotics, but can cause deformations if untreated.

A court in April 2014 ruled in favour of a group of plaintiffs in a landmark ruling, and in February ordered the government to pay compensation to another 183 victims.