Seoul said it will reject a 2015 deal signed between the the Republic of Korea and Japan over compensation for ‘comfort women’ forced by Japan into sexual slavery before and during World War II.
As CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports, this decision could have larger regional consequences.
The ROK said the agreement between Seoul and Tokyo over compensation for “comfort women” failed to consider their needs.
“I apologize for hurting the hearts of the victims, their families, civil society, that support them and all other people,” ROK Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said. “The agreement failed to sufficiently reflect a victim-oriented approach, which is the universal standard in resolving human rights issues.”
A task force spent five months investigating the deal signed between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former ROK President Park Geun-hye. Park is currently on trial for alleged corruption.
Under the 2015 agreement, Tokyo agreed to pay out nearly $9 million to a foundation assisting survivors. The agreement also included an apology for Japanese wartime atrocities.
“The agreement resolving the issue of ‘comfort women’ was finally and irreversibly confirmed between the two countries of Japan and South Korea,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. “It is highly appreciated by the international society. It is extremely important that this agreement be steadily implemented.”
Critics contend the apology was insincere, and had been orchestrated without the consent, or even knowledge, of the women involved.
The task force investigation echoed those sentiments in its 31 page conclusion issued on Wednesday.
The report notes that “the deal was reached through give-and-take negotiations like an ordinary diplomatic agenda.”
San Francisco has unveiled a memorial dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of young women forced to serve as sex slaves.
Earlier this year, Tokyo recalled its ambassador from the ROK, after statues of comfort women were placed outside of its embassy in Seoul.
And early next year, ROK President Moon Jae-in will have to decide whether to tear up the agreement. It’s expected he may wait until after a visit by Abe and the Winter Olympics in February to make an announcement.
Renewed tensions over the issue of comfort women could become an obstacle to closer cooperation between Tokyo and Seoul in dealing with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs. Washington is counting on both capitals to help its effort to contain the threat coming from DPRK leader Kim Jung-un. The U.S. will need both parties at the table and talking to each other if it has any hopes of doing that.