South Korea to stick with Japan 'comfort women' deal

Fishermen put squid into boxes at Juminjin Port in Gangneung 237 kilometers east of Seoul on Jan. 2 2018

Fishermen put squid into boxes at Juminjin Port in Gangneung 237 kilometers east of Seoul on Jan. 2 2018

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha announces in a press conference Tuesday that South Korea will not seek a renegotiation of a controversial 2015 deal it reached with Japan to settle the issue of women forced into sexual servitude for Japanese troops before and during World War II.

Instead of using Tokyo's fund, however, Seoul will now pay victims with its own money.

But she added that she hoped Japan would make further efforts to help the women "regain honour and dignity and heal wounds in their hearts". Moon also welcomed surviving "comfort women" to a presidential office lunch last week.

"It can not be denied that the 2015 deal was an official agreement reached between the governments of each country, and our government will not demand renegotiation", Kang said in a statement carried by Yonhap News Agency.

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Moon criticized the deal as gravely flawed, saying it can not resolve the comfort women issue.

Kang expressed regret that the government's decision to preserve the deal would not satisfy the wishes of the victims, Yonhap reported.

"The 2015 agreement, which did not adequately take into consideration the victims, can not be considered a genuine resolution of the Japanese wartime sex slavery issue".

Under the "final and irreversible" settlement over the sex slaves, Japan was to make an apology in addition to providing the money for the survivors' care.

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While South Korean civic groups representing the sex slavery victims have called for the immediate scrapping of the deal, Japanese media have conveyed Tokyo's fierce opposition to changing the pact by "even a millimeter".

"Our government will explore victims-centered measures by gathering opinions from the victims and related organizations", Kang said.

How the 1 billion yen raised by the Korean government to match the Japanese fund will be used is yet to be decided and will include consultations with the survivors and the Japanese government, according to a Korean Foreign Ministry official. But South Korea expects Japan to continue efforts to help the former comfort women, she said, noting that they wish for a honest and voluntary apology. This announcement comes less than two weeks after a government task force review strongly criticized the deal reached by the previous administration. Japan sees this as a violation of South Korea's promise not to criticize the country over the comfort women issue in the worldwide community.

Following the announcement in Seoul, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters in Tokyo that Japan can not accept the demand from South Korea.

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South Korea has said that it will take a "two-track" approach in which it will approach the historical issue separately from diplomatic and economic relations.

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