NATIONAL

Seoul approves budget to replace Tokyo fund for wartime sex slaves

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Jul 24, 2018 - 17:48
  • Updated : Jul 24, 2018 - 17:48

Seoul approved a government budget to replace a 1 billion yen ($8,989) fund Tokyo offered in 2015 to compensate the living Korean victims of Japan’s sexual slavery during World War II, Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality said Tuesday.

The announcement came about six months after Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said that Seoul would set aside 1 billion yen, the same sum provided by Tokyo under the controversial 2015 deal, while upholding the agreement between the two countries.

The 2015 deal -- in which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered his “most sincere apologies” to all former sex slaves while providing 1 billion yen to a fund to help the victims -- has been fiercely protested by the Korean survivors of Japan’s military sexual slavery. 

A statue (right) commemorating the victims of Japan`s sexual slavery during World War II is placed in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The women say that the apology did not go far enough in acknowledging the Japanese government’s responsibility for the organized wartime crime and that the Korean government, headed by now-ousted President Park Geun-hye at the time, did not consult them before signing the deal.

Last year, a panel organized to investigate the agreement concluded that the deal indeed failed to meet the needs of the tens of thousands of Korean victims forced to work in military brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Tokyo has been protesting Seoul’s move, stressing the 2015 agreement confirmed the “final and irreversible” resolution of the issue between the two countries.

The newly approved budget will be drawn from the Gender Equality Ministry’s fund for gender equality policies. Seoul will come up with plans on how to use the fund “after consulting with the Japanese government,” and the government will continue to make efforts to “restore the dignity” of the survivors, the Gender Equality Ministry said.

It is unclear whether Seoul will return the original fund -- worth 1 billion yen -- from Tokyo. “It would be inappropriate to comment on that at this point,” a Gender Equality Ministry official told The Korea Herald.

Historians believe more than 200,000 women, many of them from the Korean Peninsula, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II. Out of 239 survivors registered in the Korean database, only 27 remain alive as of this month.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)