On October 4, with the shock of terrorist attacks in New York still creating ripples and the US on the verge of a strike-back against Afghanistan, another piece of news came from the US - news that the federal court of Washington had rejected the lawsuit by comfort women against the Japanese government.
Since the pre-hearing on August 1, prospects had seemed favorable for the prosecution, making the court's rejection of the suit all the more devastating for the ex-comfort women grandmas and those helping them. Korean society, however, does not seem to show much interest in this issue. While the Korean government, as a US ally, remains engrossed in the terrorist attacks and the retribution war, Japan is dreaming of resurrecting its self-defense forces on the pretext of supporting the US strike-back. Again Korean society does not seem to be particularly on guard against such moves by Japan.
The American lawyers working on the case immediately appealed the case at the circuit appellate court of Columbia and are awaiting trial. The Women's News requested a written interview with the prosecuting lawyer Barry Fisher regarding the background to the rejection and the prosecuting team's future plans. The following is the interview, with Mr. Barry Fisher's answers. -from the editor-
While the international society remains wrapped up in the terrorist attack on New York, the lawsuit by comfort women against the Japanese government was rejected by the US court.
The case was not publicized very much, even in Korea. What is the American society's response to the case?
"It is surprising that the Korean media did not devote much attention to the case.
The major papers in the US all covered the case. Last week, Daily Journal, with a wide readership in the legal circle, strongly criticized the US's biased attitude through its editorial. The paper pointed out the American administration's double standards in siding with the Jewish victims of forced labor during the lawsuit against Germany,
Austria and Switzerland but doing an about-turn and protecting Japan in the comfort women case."
-After the first hearing on August 1, the prospects were that the US court would deny Japan sovereign rights of immunity and give the case to the accusers. But amidst Japan's active involvement in supporting America's war against terrorism, the case took an unexpected turn and was rejected, raising suspicions that there must have been some sort of liaison between the two governments. What is your opinion on the background to the rejection?
"The American administration had carried out active behind-the-scenes negotiations in search of a fair and rational resolution of the lawsuit case against Austria, Germany and Switzerland. But in the case of enforced sexual slavery and mobilization by the Japanese military, the US is building a "Great Wall of China" to protect the Japanese government and corporations from the lawsuit of Asian victims. We don't have material evidence, but high-ranking officials from Japan and the US were in contact, and there is no doubt that the Japanese government requested protection from its American counterpart."
- Judge Kennedy's grounds for rejecting the case was that it was "a political issue that cannot be dealt with in a trial." What is the position of the prosecuting lawyers?
"The term 'political issue' is a legal term, and in principle, it means that 'the court rules over matters under the jurisdiction of the judiciary branch but leave matters under the authority of the administrative branch to politics.' But suing for damages sustained by comfort women due to acts of cruelty is a legal matter, not a political one. If anyone regards this as a political matter, then it is because they are thinking in terms of the US-Japan relationship and are reluctant to antagonize Japan. By defining the case as a political matter, Judge Kennedy was withholding judgement on a legal matter."
- The Korean government was unable to submit its opinion regarding the 1965 Korea-Japan bilateral treaty during the trial.
"The Israeli government and private organizations participated actively in the Holocaust case, taking the side the Jewish victims in Poland, Ukraine and others. I hope that likewise, the Korean government will take a clear stand. We would like the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs to meet us lawyers for honest dialogue."
- For this appeal trial, have you formed any strategies that are different from the first trial?
"A court appeal is a process of examining whether there were any juristic errors in the judge's grounds for rejecting the case. We are confident that the Supreme Court will rectify the first court's mistaken ruling and that we will eventually win the case.
The case of the comfort women is the first-ever lawsuit concerning this issue against the Japanese government. We will soon expand this suit into a class action suit against Japanese corporations."
- Do you have a message for the Korean government, National Assembly and citizens?
"This suit is not an ordinary case of suing for damages; it's a valuable first step towards straightening out the distortions in Korea's modern history. I hope that the Korean government, citizens and media will realize as soon as possible the impact of this case on Korea-Japan relations, inter-Korean relations and the entire history of the Korean peninsula.
In particular, I hope people will feel realize the urgency of this case, considering the fact that the comfort women are continuing to pass away from old age without seeing a proper conclusion to the case. We are waiting for Korean government officials, including those involved in foreign affairs, to take a stand with conviction and courage and step forward to hold sincere talks with us. The Korean legislators should pass the special act on investigations into enforced mobilization at the earliest possible time so that the truth of the matter can be revealed once and for all. Who would protect the Koreans' rights and history if Koreans themselves give them up?"