Japan seals deal over Korean "comfort women" with an apology and $8.3-mn fund

29 Dec 2015


Japan and South Korea on Monday reached a deal over the issue of the so-called comfort women, with an apology from Japan's prime minister and a pledge of $8.3 million in financial aid, ending a decades-long impasse over Korean women forced into Japanese military-run brothels during World War II.

A joint announcement by Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida and his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung Se said the new deal will "finally and irreversibly" resolve the issue, based on the premise of a new foundation that South Korea will establish to support former comfort women.

Kishida said Japan will provide a lump sum of about ¥1 billion ($8.3 million) to the foundation.

Seoul, on its part, will refrain from criticising Japan over the issue, and will talk with ''relevant organisations'' - a reference to civic groups representing the former sex slaves - to try to resolve Japan's grievance over a statue of a girl representing victims of Japanese sexual slavery that sits in front of the Japanese Embassy in downtown Seoul.

Yun said South Korea recognizes Japan's worries about security over the statue, where anti-Tokyo protests take place weekly.

The Japanese and South Korean governments will work together to implement a project to redeem the dignity and honour of all former comfort women and heal their mental scars, he said.

"The honour and dignity of many women was harmed under the involvement of the military at that time, and the Japanese government is keenly aware of its responsibility," Kishida said.

He said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will "again express an apology and remorse to those who, as comfort women, experienced so much pain and suffered damage to their minds and bodies that is hard to heal."

Speaking to reporters in the evening, Abe said he spoke to South Korean President Park Geun-hye over the telephone and confirmed that the two countries had reached a deal on the issue.

Japan, he said, had already expressed apologies and remorse over the issue. That stance remains unchanged.

Abe had been urging South Korea to give assurances that it will never revive the comfort women issue.

In a statement issued in August to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II he reminded that past cabinets had also expressed remorse over the unfortunate issue.

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