South Korea Will Not Renegotiate Deal with Japan Over Wartime 'Comfort Women'

South Korea said it will announce on Tuesday whether it will respect an agreement between the country's previous government and Japan that was aimed at resolving a feud over "comfort women" forced to work in Japan's wartime brothels. The term was first suggested by the South Korean government with the intent of expressing the will to "never withdraw from apology".

In response, her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, called the request "absolutely unacceptable", saying the 2015 agreement settled the issue "finally and irreversibly". However, Seoul pressed Tokyo to be more honest towards the victims, saying the controversial deal does not solve the problem.

Statues erected to pay honor to these "comfort women" draw the ire of the Japanese government, the right wing forces of which have been trying ardently to whitewash its war time atrocities.

South Korea intends to replace that 1 billion yen with its own funds and discuss with Tokyo what to do with Japan's contribution, Kang said Tuesday.

In 2015, when there were 47, 36 accepted the settlement, a the official said.

Sentiments about the issue are still running deep in both South Korea and Japan, the two crucial allies of the U.S. given the tension situation due to North Korea threats. "The ministry will urge Japan to take responsible measures toward this wrongful agreement based on the seriousness of the issue and universal principles of humanitarianism". However, according to government sources, the administration is not expected to scrap or ask for a renegotiation of the deal immediately, as some have called for.

The task force was established in July 2017 as an agency reporting directly to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to review the comfort women agreement, which was signed on December 28, 2015 between South Korea's former President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which promised the final closure of the sex slave question once and for all.

Sources familiar with the issue said the remaining survivors refused to accept the money from the foundation, demanding direct compensation from the Japanese government instead, or for other reasons.

He told reporters Friday that Japan will "take all steps necessary", including cooperating with China and Russian Federation, to step up pressure on North Korea so it will give up its nuclear weapons and missile development policies.

The announcement came hours after the United States said it has agreed to delay joint military exercises with South Korea until after the Winter Olympics.

  • Rogelio Becker