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Japan rejects Seoul’s proposal on sex slaves

Tokyo hints at review of the issue as non-legal individual compensation cases


Japan has virtually turned down South Korea’s proposal for talks over its sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II, with a senior Tokyo official claiming the issue has already been settled via a 1965 deal, Japanese reports said Friday.

South Korea on Thursday proposed discussions with Japan over a proper apology and compensation for the women who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during the war.

Japan’s parliamentary senior vice-minister for foreign affairs Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi told a press conference that his government adheres to the position that the decades-old bilateral deal already settled individual demands for compensation made by former Korean sex slaves.

The official, however, hinted at the possibility of reviewing the issue as “non-legal individual compensation cases,” noting that he was aware of many Korean women who did not receive any money via a public fund that was set up in 1995 and disbanded in 2007.

Japan’s foreign ministry said it conveyed such a stance to Seoul via a formal diplomatic channel, while a Seoul official said “an official reply from Japan is yet to be received.”

Seoul’s recent suggestion was made upon the Constitutional Court’s recent ruling that the government’s lack of concrete action on the issue was unconstitutional, and it should work to get Japan to indemnify the women who were forced to serve the Japanese military as sex slaves.

Tokyo has for years glorified its wartime past in textbooks and refused to formally make amends for the euphemistically called “comfort women,” often providing a stumbling block to mending ties with Korea, which was victim to its 1910-45 colonial rule.

At least 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were forced into sexual slavery during World War II, according to historians.

While acknowledging the past, the Tokyo government has refused for decades to compensate the victims directly, claiming it solved the issue with Seoul via a post-war treaty in 1965, under which the Seoul government received $800 million.

South Korea says the agreement was only about settling claims for the Japanese colonial rule and unrelated to what should be compensated for the individual sexual slavery victims, many of whom are dead or in old age.

A spokesman of Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said his government will continue to “make diplomatic efforts to arrange the bilateral talks.”

“Forming an arbitration panel” on the bilateral Claims Settlement Agreement could also be an option if Tokyo refuses the proposal, Cho Byung-jae said.

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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