South Korea says it will not renegotiate a 2015 agreement with Japan aimed at reaching a final settlement over the so-called “comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese colonial forces.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told reporters in Seoul Tuesday it was “undeniable” the deal, approved during the administration of ousted conservative President Park Geun-hye, is a formal agreement between Seoul and Tokyo.
Under the deal, Tokyo agreed to pay $8 million into a fund to support the victims, and offered an apology from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the actions of its troops during Japan’s brutal rule of the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945.
But President Moon Jae-in said last week the deal was seriously flawed and failed to seek the opinions of the women who worked in Japanese military brothels, siding with the conclusion of a special task force he created to study the agreement.
Although it will not seek to renegotiate the deal, Kang said the South Korean government will replace the $8 million Japan paid into the victims’ fund with money from its own budget. She also urged Japan to “accept the truth in accordance with universally accepted standards” and continue efforts to help the survivors regain their dignity and heal their wounds.
In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono repeated his government’s call for Seoul to uphold the pact, which he called “final and irreversible.” Kono has previously warned that bilateral ties would be damaged if South Korea tries to amend the pact.
Historians believe that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea as well as other parts of Asia, were forced into sexual slavery during World War II.