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Japan declines to reopen compensation pact on South Korean 'comfort women'

13 January, 2018, 01:48 | Author: Kristen Ingram
  • Director general officals of S. Korea Japan meet

The issue can only be resolved if "Japan accepts the truth, makes a heartfelt apology to the victims, learn the lessons from it and prevent its recurrence", he said.

Formally withdrawing his presidential election campaign promise to seek renegotiation of the 2015 agreement with Japan over the issue, the president, who took office in May, defended his decision not to renegotiate the deal.

"This is not a matter that can be resolved in a give-and-take manner between governments with the victims excluded in the process", he added, mindful of procedural problems laid bare by a task force into the Korea-Japan deal late last month. In the 2015 agreement Japan was forced to pay around¥1 billion (approximately $9 million) to a fund for comfort women. As part of the accord, Japan had apologised to the victims and pledged 1bn yen ($8.8m, £6.1m) - termed carefully as a humanitarian offer and not reparation - to the dwindling number of survivors.

The Korean Foreign Ministry launched a nine-member task force at the end of July comprised of foreign affairs officials and experts in Korea-Japan relations, global law and human rights. "The agreement between Japan and South Korea is a pledge between countries, and it is unacceptable [for South Korea] not to implement it simply because its government has changed", Foreign Minister Taro Kono said on January 9.

"Truth and justice are key to resolving the issue, but it is not possible to renegotiate the deal". South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said that Japan had failed to meet victims' needs. He further said the agreement was "unquestionably a crucial foundation [for bilateral relations] in Japan and South Korea's cooperation in several areas, including responding to the North Korean threat". The Japanese Foreign Ministry also said it "can't accept" Kang's statement.

The deal, however, prompted strong criticism from victims and civic groups who claim that Japan's apology was not honest enough and that the government did not consult with them in advance.

The Moon Jae-in government later made a decision not to seek the renegotiation of what it called the "flawed" agreement. It, instead, vowed to set aside its own funds to help the victims heal their wounds and recover their dignity, not using Japan's contribution.

Since the inauguration of the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae In in May past year, the Japanese government has been urging South Korea to steadily implement the accord.

That created an opportunity for Moon to back out of the agreement, but at the risk of upending South Korea's relationship with Japan at a time when the countries are united in confronting North Korea over its weapons programs.

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