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Japan sends promised fund for comfort women foundation: sources

All Headlines 19:55 August 31, 2016

SEOUL, Aug. 31 (Yonhap) -- Japan has sent the money it promised to a foundation dedicated to supporting Korean victims of sexual slavery, diplomatic and foundation sources said Wednesday, in what is seen as the fulfillment of Tokyo's side of a landmark deal reached last year.

The contribution of 1 billion yen (US$9.69 million) was promised under the Dec. 28 deal between South Korea and Japan under which Tokyo expressed an apology for its colonial-era atrocities and agreed to launch a foundation dedicated to supporting the surviving victims who were forced to serve in Japanese military brothels.

These sexual slaves were euphemistically called comfort women by the Japanese government, which in the past avoided acknowledging that it had anything to do with the military brothels.

On Aug. 24, the Japanese government endorsed the contribution plan in its Cabinet meeting. Japan's top envoy to Seoul, who recently arrived here, told reporters that the pledged money would be transferred to the foundation by the end of this month.

One day later, South Korea unveiled a broad plan on how and where the money will be used. The Seoul government said that 80 percent will be granted "in cash" to individual victims and their families, while the remainder will be used for businesses intended to heal the scars and recover the dignity of those women.

Despite the latest developments, controversy over the nature of the money remains unsettled. Japan has claimed that the money is not for reparations but is intended to support the victims in an apparent bid to stay away from any legal responsibility.

Causing yet another controversy are Tokyo's calls for the removal of a comfort woman statue in front of the Japanese embassy in central Seoul. Once the money has been transferred, Tokyo is expected to ramp up the demand for its removal.

The Seoul government has said that it promised to make efforts to produce a proper resolution on the matter but made clear it has no authority to remove the statue since it was built by a civic group.

Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese troops during World War II. Forty South Korean victims, mostly in their late 80s, are known to currently be alive.


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