Comfort Women: Japan

Taiwanese Comfort Women

Filed: July 14, 1999

Nine women from Taiwan, who claim they were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during wartime, filed a suit on July 14, 1999 with the Tokyo District Court seeking compensation and an apology from the Japanese government for the suffering they endured.  It was the first time that Taiwanese women have filed such a lawsuit.

The nine women, headed by Huang A Tau, including other former comfort women, such as Lee-Yang Yu-chuan and Lu Man-mei, sought 10 million (US$84,000) each and an official apology from the national government for acts they say were carried out under the direction of the Japanese government at the time. The women claimed they were forced to work under a syndicate that was set up by the Japanese military government in wartime.  Huang stated that she applied for a nurse's job only to find herself forced into a brothel in China and transferred to similar facilities in Indonesia and Burma until the closing days of the war.  She stated that after the war she returned to Taiwan, but was too ashamed to tell her parents what had happened and has lived alone ever since.

Two Taiwanese lawyers, Wang Ching-feng and Chuang Kuo-ming, and one Japanese lawyer, Kunio Aitani, represented the women.  The lawyers argued that the case was different from the one brought previously by South Korean comfort women in that the 1952 Taipei-Tokyo peace agreement, under which Taipei waived any damage claims against Japan, was annulled by a 1972 joint statement between Tokyo and Beijing when Japan switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.  The lawsuit also stated that four of the nine plaintiffs were Taiwan aborigines who suffered more discrimination than the ordinary Chinese and thus deserved special compensation.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan joined Chuang and Wang in demanding compensation and an apology from the Japanese government. The ministry stated that the government of the Republic of China has always supported the women's claims against Japan, and since 1992 has commissioned private groups to investigate their situation.  Their research shows that at least 766 Taiwanese women were forcefully conscripted as comfort women. The Taiwanese research group conducted oral interviews with 58 claimed cases, and confirmed that at least 48 were clearly forced to work as comfort women. The ROC government granted humanitarian aid of US $15,384 to each of the 42 comfort women who were still alive and living in Taiwan. 

On October 15, 2002, the Tokyo District Court's decision dismissed the claims, both for a public apology and compensation; no factual findings were made. 

The plaintiffs appealed to the Tokyo High Court in October 2002.  During the course of the appeal, two of the nine women had died.  On February 9, 2004 the Tokyo High Court rejected the appeal for an official apology from the Japanese government and a total of now-70 million in damages.  The Tokyo High Court's rejection upheld the October 15, 2002 ruling by the Tokyo District Court. It added an explanation that it was not because there had been no legal procedure for compensation stipulated under the Imperial Japanese Constitution, but because it is a highly political decision to redress the effect of state coercion, and thus is beyond the range of decisions possibly made within the existing law. (Japanese text of the court's decision)

The women appealed to the Supreme Court on February 19, 2004.  On February 25, 2005, the Japanese Supreme Court rejected the requests of the remaining seven women.  As such, this ended their legislative options in Japan.

On February 26, 2005, the support groups from Taiwan for these former comfort women decided to the bring the case to the United Nations.  Their efforts continue.