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    Dec 30, 2015

    S. Korea-Japan WWII sex slave deal under fire


    SOUTH Korea's agreement with Japan on Monday to settle the "comfort women" issue has drawn angry reactions at home, with surviving victims, activist groups and opposition politicians calling for the deal to be ditched.

    The agreement, which includes Tokyo's apology to South Korea's former comfort women and the setting up of a 1 billion yen (S$11.7 million) fund to support surviving victims, did not clearly admit Japan's legal responsibility for the sex slavery institution that served its military during World War II, according to the protesters, the Korea Herald reported.

    Six non-government organisations said they were "flabbergasted" by the government for accepting the "absurd" conditions of the settlement, including to consider it "final and irreversible" as long as Japan keeps its promises.

    Seoul's deputy foreign ministers visited two comfort women shelters yesterday to seek the victims' support - a step which will be key to securing popular approval, reported Agence France-Presse.

    But some expressed anger, accusing the officials of complacency and of hastily wrapping up negotiations.

    "The matter has not been settled. We didn't fight for all these years to see the result like this," survivor Kim Bok Dong, 89, told deputy minister Lim Sung Nam.

    Mr Lim said Seoul had tried its best to achieve some form of justice - albeit compromised - "before too late" as most victims are at an advanced age.

    The agreement was warmly welcomed by the United States, which described it "an important gesture of healing and reconciliation".

    In Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou called on Tokyo yesterday to apologise to and compensate the island's former comfort women following the South Korea-Japan agreement, reported the local Central News Agency.

    In China, whose government has hailed the deal as a breakthrough, most online comments said that the country's former comfort women would find it much harder to get any recompense from Japan than their South Korean counterparts.

    "Our government had already given up all war claims in 1972. China's victims could only pressure Japan through private suits," said one netizen in the Sina online portal.

    In the Philippines, the deal has raised hopes among rights advocates that the government would take up the cause of local victims with Japan.

    Meanwhile, the North Korean government has heaped scorn on the deal, calling it a "humiliating agreement", according to the Pyongyang-run Chosun Sinbo based in Japan.