S Korea, Japan strike deal over sex slaves

2015-12-28 15:04
Former South Korean sex slaves, who were forced to be available to the Japanese Army during World War II, wait for results of a meeting held in Seoul. (Hong Ji-won, AP)

Former South Korean sex slaves, who were forced to be available to the Japanese Army during World War II, wait for results of a meeting held in Seoul. (Hong Ji-won, AP)

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Seoul - South Korea and Japan reached agreement on Monday on their dispute over wartime sex slaves that has soured relations for decades, as Tokyo's leader hailed a "new era" in ties with Seoul.

Japan offered a "heartfelt apology" and about $8.3m in payment to Korean women forced into Japanese military brothels during World War II.

Emotional issue

Now the two countries, both close US allies, "will welcome a new era", said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after speaking by phone to South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.

The fate of the 46 surviving South Korean "comfort women" is a hugely emotional issue in South Korea and a source of much of the distrust that has marred relations with its former colonial ruler Japan for decades.

The deal would be "final and irreversible" if Japan fulfills its responsibilities, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se said after talks in Seoul with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida.

Kishida said the issue was "one that deeply hurt the women's honour and dignity with the involvement of the (Japanese) military at the time and from this viewpoint the Japanese government keenly feels its responsibility".

Abe, he said, extends "his feeling of heartfelt apology and regret to all of those who as comfort women have suffered great pain, both mentally and physically, that is difficult to heal".

International forums

As part of the agreement Seoul will try to relocate a statue symbolising comfort women that currently stands in front of the Japanese embassy through consultations with relevant NGOs, Yun said.

He said Seoul would also refrain from bringing up the comfort women issue again in international forums such as the United Nations.

Up to 200 000 women, many of them Korean, are estimated to have been sexually enslaved by Japan during World War II.
Read more on:    south korea  |  japan

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