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'Comfort women' talks set to continue

December 25, 2015

The South Korean foreign ministry has announced it will take part in talks with Japan on the issue of 'comfort women.' The two sides are hoping to reach an agreement on the issue, which has been divisive for decades.

Südkorea Japan Treffen der Außenminister in Seoul
Image: Getty Images/S. Kyung-Seok

On Friday, the office of South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se announced that a meeting between him and his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, will take place on Monday. The focus of the meeting will be on coming to an agreement on the issue of comfort women, a term used to describe mostly South Korean women who were forced to work as prostitutes for Japanese soldiers. Former imperial Japan occupied the Korean Peninsula from 1910 until its World War II defeat in 1945.

Japan has previously maintained that the comfort women issue was settled in a 1965 normalization agreement, which saw Tokyo pay 725 million euros ($800 million) in grants or loans to South Korea.

An apology was also issued by Japanese authorities in 1993, but many South Koreans still feel the Japanese have not properly atoned for the abuse of the comfort women. Among South Korean demands is further compensation for victims of the Japanese practice.

"I'm ready to be improvisational and work hard over the Japan-South Korea relationship and the comfort women issue," Kishida said on Friday after being told to make the trip to Seoul a day earlier by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Last month, Abe took part in a summit with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye which was aimed at breaking ground on a resolution to solve bilateral issues between the two countries. Since then, there has been an improvement in the relationship. Both nations are allies of the United States, which would benefit from strong bilateral ties between Japan and South Korea.

A further improvement in ties between the countries was the decision last week by a South Korean court to clear a Japanese journalist accused of defaming Prime Minister Park.

mz/ (dpa, AFP, Reuters)