South Korea, Japan reach landmark deal on WWII Korean sex slaves

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- An apology from Japan's prime minister and a pledge of more than $8 million sealed a breakthrough deal Monday in a decades-long impasse with South Korea over Korean women forced into Japanese military-run brothels during World War II.

See Full Article

The accord, which aims to resolve the emotional core of South Korea's grievances with its former colonial overlord, could begin to reverse decades of animosity and mistrust between the two thriving democracies, trade partners and staunch U.S. allies. It represents a shift for Tokyo's conservative government and a new willingness to compromise by previously wary Seoul.

A statement by both countries' foreign ministers said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe "expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women," the euphemistic name given the women.

Historians say tens of thousands of women from around Asia, many of them Korean, were sent to front-line military brothels to provide sex to Japanese soldiers.

It wasn't immediately clear if Abe would be issuing a separate written statement or if it would be directly delivered to the 46 surviving former Korean sex slaves, now in their 80s and 90s.

The language mirrored past expressions of remorse by other prime ministers, although it was seen by some in Seoul as an improvement on previous comments by Abe's hawkish government, which has been accused of whitewashing wartime atrocities.

Another deciding factor was that the 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) -- to create a foundation to help provide support for the victims -- came from the government, not private sources, something Tokyo has resisted in the past.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said Seoul considers the agreement "final and irreversible," as long as Japan faithfully follows through with its promises.

Later Monday, Abe called South Korean President Park Geun-hye and reiterated his apology. He said Tokyo would implement the deal and called the issue settled irreversibly. Park said she hoped the two countries will build mutual trust and open a new era in ties based on the agreement.

After phoning Park, Abe told reporters that the agreement was based on his commitment to stop future generations from having to repeatedly apologize.

"Japan and South Korea are now entering a new era," Abe said. "We should not drag this problem into the next generation."

Park issued a separate statement saying the deal was the result of her government's best efforts to resolve the sex slave issue, given its urgency. "Most of victims are at an advanced age and nine died this year alone," she said.

"I hope the mental pains of the elderly comfort women will be eased," Park said.

The initial reaction of former sex slaves was mixed. One woman said she would follow the government's lead, while another vowed to ignore the accord because Tokyo didn't consider the money to be formal compensation.

"Isn't it natural to make legal compensation if they commit a crime?" said Lee Yong-su, 88, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Some in Seoul saw the deal, while not perfect, as an important step forward.

"If we brushed aside this deal, the comfort women issue would remain unresolved forever," said Lee Won Deog, director of Institute of Japanese Studies at Seoul's Kookmin University. "Elderly women would die one by one; South Korea and Japan would engage in history wars and find it harder to improve ties."

Many South Koreans continue to feel bitterness over Japan's brutal colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945. But South Korean officials have also faced calls to improve ties with Japan, the world's No. 3 economy and a regional powerhouse, not least from U.S. officials eager for a strong united front against a rising China and North Korea's pursuit of nuclear-armed missiles that could target the American mainland.

Japan appeared emboldened to make the overture to Seoul after the first formal leaders' meeting between the neighbours in 3 1/2 years, in November, and after South Korean courts recently acquitted a Japanese reporter charged with defaming Park and refused to review a complaint by a South Korean seeking individual compensation for Japan's forceful mobilization of workers during colonial days.

Seoul, meanwhile, said it will refrain from criticizing Japan over the issue, and will talk with "relevant organizations" -- a reference to civic groups representing the former sex slaves -- to try to resolve Japan's grievance over a statue of a girl representing victims of Japanese sexual slavery that sits in front of the Japanese Embassy in downtown Seoul. Yun said South Korea recognizes Japan's worries about security over the statue, where anti-Tokyo protests take place weekly.

There has long been resistance in South Korea to past Japanese apologies because many here wanted Japan to acknowledge that it has a legal responsibility to the women.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida later emphasized in a closed-door briefing with Japanese reporters that Tokyo doesn't consider the 1 billion yen as compensation, but "a project to relieve emotional scars and provide healing for the victims." It will include medical services, health checks and other support for the women, he said. All compensation issues between the countries were settled by a 1965 treaty that restored diplomatic ties and was accompanied by more than $800 million in economic aid and loans from Tokyo to Seoul, he said.

But Kishida said the comfort women system "deeply hurt the honour and dignity of many women under the involvement of the Japanese military at the time, and Japan strongly feels responsibility."

Better relations between South Korea and Japan are a priority for Washington. The two countries together host about 80,000 U.S. troops and are members of now-stalled regional talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions in return for aid.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Mudslinging continues as B.C. election nears halfway mark

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - Leaders of British Columbia's main political parties are continuing to take shots at each other's election promises and past performances as the campaign nears the halfway mark. NDP Leader John Horgan hosted a campaign rally in Vancouver on Sunday, where he told the crowd that Liberal Leader Christy Clark is working for her donors, not for the average British Columbian. Source
  • South Korea, allies brace for North Korea follow-up act

    World News CTV News
    SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of -- Fresh off an immense North Korean parade that revealed an arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles, rival South Korea and its allies are bracing for the possibility that Pyongyang's follow-up act will be even bigger. Source
  • 'This is where I want to be': Canadian woman on fighting ISIS in Syria

    World News CTV News
    A B.C. fashion model-turned-freedom fighter is speaking out about her decision to rejoin the fight against ISIS in Syria. Hanna Bohman, 48, has travelled to Syria twice. She returned to Vancouver in June, 2016 after rejoining other foreigners in a faction of Kurdish fighters. Source
  • N.L. fisherman's hunger strike ends in hospitalization

    Canada News CTV News
    A Newfoundland fisherman’s hunger strike ended Sunday with an ambulance taking him to hospital, though his supporters say their fight is far from finished. “I almost lost my son there today,” Richard Gillett’s father, John Gillett, told reporters on Sunday. Source
  • Venezuelans struggling in U.S. as home country implodes

    World News CTV News
    MIAMI -- People crowd outside a church near Miami's international airport, chatting about family and friends left behind in Caracas, Valencia and Maracaibo as they wait more than an hour to receive rice, beans, yogurt and other food for their families. Source
  • Changes at passport offices due to terrorism concerns

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    OTTAWA — The federal government has been quietly making changes to passport offices in a bid to improve security and address concerns that the facilities could be easy targets for a terrorist attack. Civil servants in passport and other government offices have for years faced bomb threats, and hostility from individuals who are disgruntled, drunk or suffering mental illnesses. Source
  • Student killed during hammer throw at track meet

    World News Toronto Sun
    WHEATON, Ill. — A college student has died after being struck during a hammer-throw event at a track meet in suburban Chicago. Wheaton College officials say 19-year-old student Ethan Roser of Cincinnati was volunteering at a track and field competition at the school Saturday when he was accidentally struck by a hammer. Source
  • Obama meets with at-risk youth ahead of Chicago speech

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Former President Barack Obama met Sunday with at-risk young men and boys in his hometown of Chicago before his first major post-presidency speech. The former president spent time at a roundtable with youth from theorganization Chicago Create Real Economic Destiny located in the Roseland/Pullman neighbourhood in South Side Chicago where Obama started as a community organizer at age 25. Source
  • Police stop 12-year-old boy from driving across Australia

    World News Toronto Sun
    SYDNEY, Australia — Outback police have arrested a 12-year-old boy who was almost a third of his way toward driving solo across Australia. The unlicensed boy had driven more than 1,300 kilometres (800 miles) from his home in Kendall on the east coast when he was stopped by traffic police on Saturday on the Barrier Highway near the remote mining town of Broken Hill because a bumper bar was dragging on the road, a police statement said on Sunday. Source
  • Police stop 12-year-old boy who drove 1,300 km across Australia

    World News CTV News
    SYDNEY, Australia - Outback police have arrested a 12-year-old boy who was almost a third of his way toward driving solo across Australia. A police statement said on Sunday the unlicensed boy had driven more than 1,300 kilometres from his home in Kendall on the east coast when was stopped by traffic police on Saturday on the Barrier Highway near the mining town of Broken Hill because a bumper bar was dragging on the road. Source