Apologize to former sex workers near U.S. military bases and compensate them

The Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that the state should compensate former sex workers at now-defunct brothels near U.S. military bases. The top court said the government should take responsibility for having encouraged sex trafficking by operating military camptowns under the pretext of cementing the military alliance with the U.S. and earning foreign currency. The Supreme Court also stressed that the statute of limitations does not apply to the right to claim compensation for human rights violations by the state. We welcome the recognition of the state's responsibility for violating the human rights of women in such military camptowns, although it is overdue.

Since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, women in military camptowns had been treated as non-existent in Korean society. In June 2014, women who were sex workers for U.S. soldier clients at military camptowns in Paju and Pyeongtaek over a 40-year period filed a lawsuit against the government. They demanded the state pay 10 million won ($6,950) each, saying it violated their human rights by encouraging prostitution while building, managing and operating the camptowns.

A district court limited the scope of the state's responsibility, ruling that 57 of the plaintiffs should be paid only 5 million won each. In contrast, the appeals court judged that the government had effectively encouraged and justified sex trafficking and exploited the sex workers to strengthen the military alliance with the U.S. and acquire foreign currency. It then recognized the state's responsibility more broadly, ordering the government to pay 7 million won each to 74 of the plaintiffs and 3 million won each to 43 others.

The Supreme Court upheld the ruling. Now, the government must make an official apology to the victims and quickly carry out the process of restoring their honor and providing financial support. In May 2020, Gyeonggi Province enacted an ordinance to support women in military camptowns for the first time in the country. The central government must go further by coming up with substantive support measures for them. The time has long since passed for the nation to embrace and heal the wounds of these women, who have embodied a tragedy of modern history and who have unjustly been shunned by Korean society.


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02.10.2022
Apologize to former sex workers near U.S. military bases and compensate them

The Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that the state should compensate former sex workers at now-defunct brothels near U.S. military bases. The top court said the government should take responsibility for having encouraged sex trafficking by operating military camptowns under the pretext of cementing the military alliance with the U.S. and earning foreign currency. The Supreme Court also stressed that the statute of limitations does not apply to the right to claim compensation for human rights violations by the........

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