Inheriting compensatory claims and duties: reparations to the descendants of “comfort women”

Daniel Butt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)


The ‘comfort women’ system perpetrated by the Japanese military during World War II was a serious act of injustice. This article addresses the question of whether present day individuals can be said to have inherited compensatory rights or duties as a result of this historic wrongdoing. It argues that contemporary members of the Japanese nation possess collective duties to rectify the ongoing failure of the Japanese government to fulfill its rectificatory obligations. It then maintains that not just survivors of the comfort women system but the descendants of the victims are entitled to compensation, as a result of the harm which they have suffered from the historic failure to pay compensation to their ancestors. The article puts forward a new understanding of the relationship between inheritance to compensation and harm stemming from a failure to pay compensation to one’s ancestors. This account is rooted in the idea that a failure to rectify injustice is itself an act of injustice: a seemingly obvious observation which significantly complicates the role of counterfactual reasoning in relation to historic injustice. The conclusion is that contemporary Japan possesses significant, unfulfilled rectificatory duties to the descendants of comfort women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40 - 70
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Asiatic Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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