The Korea Herald


[Newsmaker] Tokyo protests UN committee’s advice on ‘comfort women’: local report

By Claire Lee

Published : Aug. 31, 2018 - 14:53

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After a UN anti-discrimination body on Thursday advised Tokyo to adopt a victim-centered approach to achieve a lasting solution on the issue of Japan’s wartime military sexual slavery, which largely involved Korean women, Tokyo’s UN mission has expressed its regret and lodged a protest with the UN committee, according to local media.

The 18-member UN body stated that Tokyo’s efforts did not “take a fully victim-centered approach (and) that the surviving (victims) were not adequately consulted.” It also added that the controversial 2015 Seoul-Tokyo deal to settle the issue permanently “did not provide unequivocal responsibility for the human rights violations committed against these women.”

According to a South Korean news report, Tokyo’s UN mission in Geneva expressed its concerns and said the newly released UN report “did not fully take into account” the explanations provided by the Japanese government. The delegation from Tokyo also stressed that the 2015 Seoul-Tokyo deal was a “final and irreversible” settlement between the two countries.
South Koreans hold photographs of Korean victims of Japan`s wartime sex slavery during a mass rally in central Seoul on Aug. 15. (Yonhap) South Koreans hold photographs of Korean victims of Japan`s wartime sex slavery during a mass rally in central Seoul on Aug. 15. (Yonhap)

Korean survivors of Japan’s wartime atrocities have strongly protested 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 ($9 million) to a fund to help the victims.

The women say Tokyo’s apology did not go far enough in acknowledging the Japanese government’s legal responsibility for what the women view as systematic war crimes, and that the Korean government, headed by now-ousted President Park Geun-hye, did not consult them before signing the deal. President Moon Jae-in has been critical of the deal.

Last year, a Korean government panel concluded that the deal indeed failed to meet the needs of the now-elderly Korean victims. Earlier this year, Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said that Seoul would set aside 1 billion yen, the same sum provided by Tokyo under the 2015 deal, while upholding the agreement between the two countries.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry official told The Korea Herald that Seoul currently has no plans to comment or issue an official statement on the latest UN report.

The Ministry of Gender Equality, on the other hand, said it needs some time to comment on the report.

The UN body’s advice has no legal effect, but Tokyo is expected to submit a report on the progress of the matter before the next periodic review.

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 the 239 victims registered in the Korean database, just 27 remain alive.