South Korea to unveil decision over 'comfort women' deal with Japan

Casey Dawson
January 10, 2018

Seoul has said that it will not seek to renegotiate the deal, but will plan to match the 1 billion yen (8.9 million USA dollars) paid by the Japanese government under the deal, with South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha saying that it will decide how to use Japan's payoff.

Another victim passed away at age 89 last Friday, leaving just 31 known surviving Korean "comfort women" among the thousands of sex slaves drafted by Imperial Japan.

"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.

The deal, struck under the previous government of President Park Geun-hye, has remained a source of controversy among the victims and the South Korean public, with some saying victims' voices were ignored and that Japan's fresh apology was inadequate. However, Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Kono stated on December 27 that South Korea-Japan relations will become impossible to manage if the South Korean government tries to "alter the agreement".

"While the administration has changed", Kono responded Tuesday, "responsibly implementing" the pact remains a matter of "universal worldwide principle". Some former comfort women have urged Seoul to refund the money as a sign of protest. "We don't plan to even discuss" how the funds will be handled, the official said.

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Under a landmark bilateral deal reached two years ago, both countries agreed that the "comfort women" issue that had led to diplomatic ties between both countries becoming significantly strained, would be "finally and irreversibly" resolved. "I agree that it makes no sense to pay the salaries with that money", she said.

Whatever happens with the money, South Korea shows little sign of simply complying fully with the 2015 deal, despite Kang's assurance that no renegotiation was in order. To Japan's chagrin, a similar statue went up in front of the consulate in Busan soon after. Japan sees this as a violation of South Korea's promise not to criticize the country over the comfort women issue in the global community.

But Moon's claim that the issue remains unresolved could still be a stumbling block.

The announcement came hours after the United States said it has agreed to delay joint military exercises with South Korea until after the Winter Olympics.

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