2015 comfort women deal

Seoul to brief Tokyo on probe before going public

South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Tuesday.
South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Tuesday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

S. Korea's foreign chief non-committal when urged by Japan to comply with deal

As a form of "diplomatic etiquette", South Korea will brief Japan on the findings of a probe into their 2015 comfort women deal, before Seoul makes a public announcement next week, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha said yesterday.

She made the comments to South Korea correspondents in Japan before she returned to Seoul after a two-day visit to Tokyo.

It is not known when the private briefing will take place.

South Korea will announce on Dec 27 its findings on the "final and irreversible" pact that was signed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and then South Korean President Park Geun Hye.

Under the deal, Japan offered an apology and a billion yen (S$12 million) to set up a foundation for those comfort women who are still alive.

Comfort women - many of them Korean - were forced to work as sex workers for the Japanese military during the war.

But Park's successor Moon Jae In has criticised the deal as having insufficient public backing, while several former comfort women have dismissed the pact as insincere.

Dr Kang met Mr Abe and her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono on Tuesday, and they both called on Seoul to comply with the deal. But Dr Kang was non-committal.

She also delivered a message to Mr Abe from Mr Moon, which said: "While bilateral ties have been clouded by difficult issues, including those related to history, I hope these could be wisely overcome through close communication."

He added that he is anticipating that both countries will "pave a new future together" as 2018 would mark 20 years since they made a joint declaration to build a "new Japan-Korea partnership towards the 21st century", according to South Korean broadcaster KBS.

Dr Kang yesterday said "the government's stance regarding the South Korea-Japan agreement is that (it should be made) to satisfy the victims".

"It's also urgent to come up with a position that could overcome (any tension) in the South Korea-Japan relationship," she was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying.

She said Seoul will decide how it will proceed with the bilateral pact independently of the review findings. The final decision - whether to retain, modify or scrap the deal - will be made after getting input from victims, civic groups and scholars.

Tokyo has been irked by the probe, which is widely expected to be highly critical.

Even so, Dr Kang and Mr Kono stressed the importance of "properly managing" the two countries' differences. They also agreed to start a hot line to increase their communications.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2017, with the headline 'Seoul to brief Tokyo on probe before going public'. Print Edition | Subscribe