WWII comfort women: Japan, Korea agree to $11.7m landmark deal
JAPAN yesterday expressed its apology and contrition for its wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women, and agreed to provide 1 billion yen (S$11.7 million) for a foundation to be established by South Korea to support the surviving victims.
"The comfort women issue is one involving the (Japanese) military that has left deep scars on the honour and dignity of many women," said Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, following talks with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung Se in Seoul, reported the Korea Herald.
Comfort woman is a euphemism for sex slaves in the control of the Japanese Imperial Army.
Mr Kishida also said the issue has been settled "finally and irrevocably" under yesterday's landmark agreement.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offers an "apology and repentance from the bottom of his heart" to the victims, Agence France-Presse quoted Mr Kishida as saying.
According to the Korea Herald, this was the first time Mr Abe had expressed such sentiment over the issue.
"Japan and South Korea will welcome a new era," Mr Abe also told reporters in Tokyo after speaking by phone with South Korean President Park Geun Hye.
"We cannot force our children, grandchildren and children of our future generations to shoulder the fate by which they have to keep apologising," he added.
Points of contention, however, remains, according to the Korea Herald, as the agreement failed to specify whether Japan was taking "legal" responsibility, with Mr Kishida saying that the fund was not compensation but a project to help heal the wounds of the victims.
The two sides also remained ambiguous about Tokyo's push for the relocation of the statue of a girl representing comfort women erected near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
The South Korean foreign ministry said earlier that the statue was erected by civilians and the government had no say over its location.
The fate of the 46 surviving South Korean comfort women is a hugely emotional issue in the country and a source of much of the distrust that has marred relations between Tokyo and Seoul for decades.
Up to 200,000 women, many of them Korean, are estimated to have been sexually enslaved by Japan during World War II.
China said yesterday it hopes South Korea-Japan ties will improve following the bilateral deal, reported South Korea's Yonhap news agency. AGENCIES