Professor ordered to compensate comfort women

SEOUL • A university professor was ordered to pay 10 million won (S$11,900) to each of the nine women who had filed a suit claiming the scholar had defamed them in her book about Japan's World War II military brothels.

Since Japanese literature professor Park Yu Ha, from Sejong University in Seoul, published a book titled Comfort Women Of The Empire in 2013, she has faced a series of civil and criminal complaints from the nine South Korean women, who say they were forced to work at the brothels during the war.

In its ruling on Wednesday, the Eastern District Court in Seoul said Prof Park had to pay reparations as she had defamed the women with content that was "false, exaggerated or distorted". Prof Park said she plans to file an appeal.

Comfort women are described in official South Korean history as young women forced or lured into sexual slavery. Prof Park argues that this is only partly true, and in her book calls for a more comprehensive view of comfort women.

Her book also argues there was no evidence the Japanese government was officially involved in - and therefore legally responsible for - forcibly recruiting the women.

It says Korean collaborators, as well as private Japanese recruiters, were mainly responsible for taking Korean women into the "comfort stations", where life included both rape and prostitution.

In February last year, another court ordered her book be redacted in 34 sections for "defamatory content". She also faces a separate criminal trial after prosecutors indicted her in November last year on a charge of defaming the women.

Prof Park's critics in South Korea call her a "pro-Japanese apologist" who selectively chooses historical data to parrot a Japanese view.

But many intellectuals condemn the legal manoeuvres as violations of freedom of scholarship.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'Professor ordered to compensate comfort women'. Print Edition | Subscribe