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U.N. chief holds first meeting with Korean victim of Japan's wartime sexual slavery

All News 09:41 March 12, 2016

NEW YORK, March 11 (Yonhap) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with an elderly South Korean victim of Japan's wartime sexual slavery on Friday, the first such meeting since he took the U.N.'s helm.

Ban welcomed the 89-year-old victim, Kil Won-ok, to the U.N. headquarters, saying he respects her efforts to raise awareness of the wartime crime to make sure that no such thing will ever happen again.

The meeting was watched closely, not only because it was the first time Ban has met with a sexual slavery victim as U.N. chief, but also because he drew criticism after he welcomed December's landmark agreement between South Korea and Japan on resolving the sexual slavery issue.

The deal centered on Japan's admission of responsibility for the crime and plans to pay reparations to the victims. South Korea promised to end the dispute once and for all if Japan fulfills its responsibilities.

But the agreement came under fire for failing to take the victims' positions into consideration.

In Friday's 30-minute meeting, Ban told the victim to the effect that what he welcomed was the efforts of the two countries to resolve the issue, not the content of the agreement, according to Yoon Mee-hyang, head of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.

Ban also spoke about his efforts to resolve the issue when he was South Korea's top diplomat.

During the meeting, Yoon also delivered a joint petition of some 30 international human rights organizations in which they expressed regret about Ban's welcoming of the December deal and called for the U.N. to launch an investigation into the wartime crime.

Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, which was a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II. Japan has long attempted to water down the atrocity.

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