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Tokyo rejects Seoul’s proposal on sex slaves

The issue of Japan’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II has been wholly settled, a senior Tokyo official said Monday, restating his government’s rejection of Seoul’s proposal for new talks on the matter.

It is an unchanged position of Japan that the issue has been settled under a 1965 bilateral pact, Shinsuke Sugiyama, director general of the foreign ministry Asian and Oceanic Affairs Bureau, told Korean reporters in Tokyo.

Sugiyama’s remarks come as South Korea proposed to Japan last month to discuss a proper apology and compensation for the women who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during the war.

“The Japanese government will come up with appropriate measures” about Seoul’s proposal, the official said, adding the two sides should improve ties upon “shared interests.”

Sugiyama also hinted at the possibility of compensating the women individually, noting Tokyo’s public fund that was set up in 1995 for these purposes. The fund was disbanded in 2007. Sugiyama did not elaborate on the issue.

Seoul’s suggestion was made upon the Constitutional Court’s recent ruling that the government’s lack of concrete action on the issue was unconstitutional, and that it should work to get Japan to indemnify the women 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 regarding 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 through a treaty with Seoul in 1965, under which the Korean 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.

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