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(LEAD) Former Korean 'comfort women' criticize Korea-Japan deal, demand Abe's apology

All News 20:27 January 26, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 6, photos)

TOKYO, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) -- Former Korean "comfort women" on Tuesday reiterated their demand for a formal apology from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and official compensation from the Japanese government.

Two Korean women who were forced to work in Japan's military brothels during World War II criticized the Seoul-Tokyo agreement on wartime sexual slavery victims reached late last year between the South Korean and Japanese governments, saying that it was made without their input.

Lee Ok-sun, 90, who traveled to Japan from South Korea to attend a press conference at the Japanese parliament said, "It is as if the Japanese government is waiting for us to stop speaking out and die."

"We are too resentful of the Japanese attitude on the comfort women. Do you know why we came to Japan?" Lee said at the press conference, strongly demanding a formal apology from Abe for Japan's wartime atrocities toward the women.

"The deal is making a fool out of us. It was agreed upon without any consultation with us. How can they agree (on the issue) by pushing us aside? I'm furious," said 89-year-old Kang Il-chul, who traveled to Japan with Lee.

The two women are the first to have come to Tokyo to make remarks at a press conference following the Seoul-Tokyo deal.

On Dec. 28, South Korea and Japan agreed to end a drawn-out dispute between the two countries over the issue "finally and irreversibly," with Tokyo pledging to provide 1 billion yen ($8.4 million) for a new South Korean foundation aimed at helping the aging former comfort women.

Kang and Lee are among the 10 women living at the House of Sharing, a group home for former sex slaves on the outskirts of Seoul. A total of 46 survivors now live in South Korea.

Amid controversy over the agreement, Abe told a parliamentary meeting last week that there is no evidence to prove the women were forcibly brought to Japan by its military during the war.

But South Korea has made it clear that Korean women were forced against their will to provide sexual services for Japanese soldiers, rebutting contrary claims by the Japanese prime minister.

The agreement has sparked a wave of public protests among victims and their supporters, who claim Japan got the better end of the deal by obtaining Seoul's promise to settle the issue once and for all if Tokyo fulfills its commitments.

During a meeting with local civic groups, the victims also shared their painful experiences, stressing their desperate hope for better ties between Seoul and Tokyo by settling the pending issue.

"How could a teenage girl have served 40-50 people everyday? I'd rather die. It was nothing but a guillotine ... If we willingly went there (as Japan claimed) to earn money, how come we have been demanding all these things at this age?" Lee said.

Upon Korea's independence in 1945, she was taken to China by Japan and had stayed there before managing to return home in 2000 at the age of 75.

"When I returned home, my parents and family members had all died, and they had reported to the government that I had died," she cried out.

Underlying the fact that "Japanese citizens are not to be blamed," Kang extended her gratitude to Japanese civic groups and citizens for supporting her.

"I hope such a thing will never happen again, and that South Korea and Japan maintain their amicable relationship by resolving all these matters," she added.

(END)

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