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(2nd LD) S Korea to announce stance on comfort women deal on Tuesday

All News 20:00 January 08, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS more info in last 5 paras)

SEOUL, Jan. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will announce Tuesday its stance on and follow-up measures to a controversial deal with Japan to settle the grievances of Korean women forced into wartime sexual slavery for Japanese troops, the foreign ministry here said Monday.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha will make the announcement at 2 p.m. on measures it will take on the deal reached in December 2015 between South Korea and Japan, according to the ministry.

This follows a government task force's recent conclusion that the previous government of ousted President Park Geun-hye failed to make sufficient efforts to listen to the surviving former comfort women. President Moon Jae-in also criticized it as seriously flawed.

Kang earlier said that she will make efforts to listen to all of the victims before finalizing the government's stance on the controversial deal.

Comfort women is a euphemistic term that refers to women who were forced by Japan to serve in frontline military brothels during World War II.

South Korea and Japan announced the deal on Dec. 28, 2015, under which they agreed to "finally and irreversible" resolve the comfort women issue, while Tokyo apologized for its colonial-era atrocities and agreed to contribute 1 billion yen (US$8.9 million) to a foundation dedicated to supporting the victims.

The deal, however, prompted strong criticism from victims and civic groups who claim that Japan's apology was not sincere enough and that the government did not consult with them in advance. Some call for renegotiating or even scrapping the deal.

Korea was under Japan's colonial rule from 1910-45. Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced into sexual servitude during World War II. The number of surviving South Korean victims currently stands at around 30.

Government sources said that the announcement is expected to focus on reaffirming President Moon's earlier remarks that the comfort women issue has not be resolved with the deal and emphasizing that it will seek efforts to support the victims and recover their dignity. It will also likely include how to deal with the money dedicated by the Japanese government to the foundation.

"(Seoul) is expected to urge Tokyo to take responsible steps vis-a-vis wrong (parts of the) deal in line with the seriousness of the comfort women issue and the spirit of the principles of universality for mankind, "a source said.

The government, however, will likely not go as far as seeking to renegotiate or scrap the deal, according to the source, as it is feared that any such attempt will undermine bilateral relations between the two neighbors.

Japan has called for South Korea to faithfully implement the deal, saying that it is a government-to-government agreement.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono recently issued a written statement in which he called on South Korea to keep the agreement intact and said that any attempt to amend what was agreed upon would make ties with South Korea "unmanageable."


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