The main opposition party on Tuesday called on the Seoul government to renegotiate last month’s agreement with Tokyo to settle Japan’s wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women and apologize to victims for the “unilateral” deal.
Four senior lawmakers of the Minjoo Party of Korea including its floor leader Rep. Lee Jong-kul made the demands during their hour-long talks with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se at his office in Seoul.
The lawmakers also said that Seoul should not accept Tokyo’s contribution of 1 billion yen ($8.38 million) to form a foundation to support the victims, and that the foundation should be funded with civilian donations.
Under the agreement struck on Dec. 28, Japan expressed its apology and contrition for its colonial-era atrocities, and agreed to provide 1 billion yen for the foundation to be established by the Seoul government.
Criticizing the government’s failure to secure consent from the victims for the deal, the lawmakers demanded that President Park Geun-hye and Minister Yun visit each victim and tender an apology for “unilaterally” reaching the agreement.
In response to the lawmakers’ demands, Yun said that the government does not consider any renegotiation given that the agreement was announced before the international community though it is not a formal treaty.
Repudiating the argument that the government did not seek consultations with the victims, the minister said that the government has already made efforts to listen to the victims and advocacy groups nationwide over the last several years.
As for Japan’s pledged monetary contribution, Yun said that regardless of the amount, the fact that the Tokyo government agreed to provide the money from its state coffers is meaningful, given that the money can be a testimony to Tokyo’s recognition of its legal responsibility for the wartime misdeeds.
So far, 238 South Korean victims have registered with the government. Of them, only 46 victims, including four living abroad, are still alive. Their average age is 89.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)