Seoul set to keep deal on comfort women

SEOUL • Seoul is not expected to scrap a deal with Tokyo that was aimed at resolving a feud over South Korean women forced to work in Japan's wartime brothels, when it announces its stance on the agreement today.

President Moon Jae In had said the 2015 deal, under which Japan apologised to victims and provided 1 billion yen (S$11.8 million) to a fund to help them, was seriously flawed and set up a panel to probe the deal endorsed by the previous government.

Japan said any attempt to revise it could damage relations.

South Korean activists estimate there may have been as many as 200,000 Korean women, euphemistically termed "comfort women" by Japan, forced to work in military brothels during World War II.

Citing a government source, the Yonhap news agency said today's announcement is expected to reaffirm Mr Moon's stance that the deal has failed to resolve the comfort women issue and he will continue to support the victims and recover their dignity.

The statement will also likely include what to do with the money given by the Japanese government to the foundation, Yonhap added.

But the government will likely not seek to renegotiate or scrap the deal for fear of undermining bilateral relations with Japan, according to the source.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha will hold the news conference to say what measures the South Korean government intends to take to follow up on the public-private panel that concluded last week that the accord had failed to meet the women's needs, a ministry official told Reuters yesterday.

The bitter history, including Japanese colonisation of the Korean peninsula and the issue of the women, has been a source of rancour between the two countries as some Japanese ultra-conservatives deny that women were forced to work in brothels.

Mr Moon came to power in May last year after the removal of his disgraced predecessor, Park Geun Hye, whose conservative government was criticised for failing to fully consult victims over the 2015 settlement.

Park is now on trial on 18 charges, including bribery.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2018, with the headline 'Seoul set to keep deal on comfort women'. Print Edition | Subscribe