South Korea's No. 2 diplomats met with victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery Tuesday to seek their understanding over a controversial deal aimed at ending the two countries' dispute over the crime.
On Monday, Seoul and Tokyo reached a breakthrough agreement that centers on Japan's admission of responsibility for the atrocity and plans to pay reparations to the victims.
Some of the victims, who are euphemistically called "comfort women," immediately denounced the deal as a political collusion between the two countries that falls short of their demands for a formal apology and acknowledgment of legal responsibility from Japan.
"Which country do you belong to? Shouldn't you tell us that you're having such negotiations with Japan?" yelled 88-year-old Lee Yong-soo, facing First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam at a shelter for the victims in Seoul.
"That's why I came here albeit belatedly," Lim said as he held Lee's hands.
Kim Bok-dong, an 89-year-old former comfort woman, bemoaned the fact that the government did not ask for their views before sitting down for talks with Japan.
"It's not like (Japanese) Prime Minister Abe admitted legal responsibility and formally apologized in front of reporters," she said, referring to the fact that his foreign minister spoke on his behalf.
Lim said the government's biggest aim was to restore the dignity and honor of the victims before they all die. Only 46 South Korean victims are still alive.
He sought the women's understanding, saying the government could not discuss the deal with them in advance because there are considerations for the other party in negotiations.
Second Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul held a separate meeting with six other victims at another shelter in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province.
He vowed the government's best efforts to ensure the implementation of the deal, saying it was the first time Abe publicly apologized for the crime.
"We're the victims. Why should the government rashly reach a deal? We won't accept it," said 90-year-old Kim Kun-ja.
Historians estimate that more than 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II. Korea was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945. (Yonhap)