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(LEAD) Former sex slave embarks on U.S. campaign

All News 16:19 March 08, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with Foreign Ministry briefing, U.N. panel recommendation in last 6 paras)

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- A former sex slave of Japan's military left for the United States on Tuesday to campaign for a proper resolution of the issue decades after the atrocity took place, a civic group said.

Gil Won-wok, 89, will take part in various events in Washington and New York to raise awareness for the issue and demand its "just" resolution, according to the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.

She is accompanied on the trip by representatives of the council, including its co-chief, Yoon Mee-hyang.

The 13-day trip is scheduled to include a rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Washington, where participants will demand South Korea and Japan address the shortcomings in last year's bilateral agreement on the issue of the "comfort women."

Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced to work in front-line brothels for the Japanese military during World War II. Korea was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910-45.

Under the deal, Japan officially acknowledged its responsibility in the crime and offered an apology, as well as 1 billion yen (US$8.8 million) into a support fund for the victims.

Some of the victims, however, argued that Tokyo did not take legal responsibility when it agreed to resolve the issue.

On Friday, the group plans to visit the U.N. headquarters to deliver a petition calling on the international body to address remaining grievances.

Only 44 South Korean victims are currently known to be alive.

The Foreign Ministry stressed that the agreement was a result of the government's "best efforts" to restore the honor and dignity of the victims and heal the wounds in their hearts.

"Our government plans to continue to listen to the opinions of the victims and related groups and make sure they are reflected in the implementation of the follow-up steps," ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said during a regular press briefing.

On Monday, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women released a report urging Japanese leaders and public officials to refrain from making "disparaging statements" regarding the victims.

The report came after Japan submitted a document to the committee in which it claimed the "forceful taking away of comfort women by the military and government authorities could not be confirmed in any of the documents" in a "full-scale fact-finding study on the comfort women issue since the early 1990s."

The committee said the bilateral agreement did not adopt a victim-centered approach to the issue and urged Japan to implement the accord with the views of the survivors in mind.

Cho declined to comment on the report, saying it is "inappropriate" for the South Korean government to remark on recommendations made to Japan.


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