South Korea's foreign minister has said her government "will not demand renegotiation" of a 2015 deal with Japan over wartime sex slavery. Seoul's new president had questioned the accord during his election campaign.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha admitted Tuesday that it was an "undeniable fact” that ousted, and now jailed, President Park Guen-hye had made the deal with Japan, despite the agreement's unpopularity.
"Considering that, our government will not demand renegotiation of the deal," Kang told reporters on Tuesday.
Her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, meanwhile described the deal as "irreversible," saying that it created a "crucial" foundation for cooperation between the two US allies "amid efforts to address threats from North Korea."
During World War Two, up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, but also from China, were forcibly used as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers, say historians. They were euphemistically referred to as "comfort women."
Last month, South Korea's new President Moon Jae-in had described the deal as "seriously flawed," reiterating his election pledge to seek renegotiation, while Tokyo urged Seoul to stick with the 2015 agreement.
Criticism of deal maintained
Kang said that even though the deal was flawed, South Korea was not seeking to change it. Instead it would augment Japan's one billion yen ($8.8 million, €7.4 million) offer to the surviving "comfort women" with its own funds.
"The 2015 agreement, which failed to reflect the victims' opinions, cannot be a genuine solution to the issue of comfort women,” Kang told a news conference.
Japan should offer a "voluntary and sincere apology," she said. Japan did issue an apology as part of the 2015 accord, but did not accept legal responsibility.
In recent years, ties between the Asian neighbors have been strained by statues placed outside Japanese diplomatic missions in memory of the victims. The removal of these statues was also a part of the accord, but this has not happened..
Post-war Japanese governments have denied that wartime administrations were directly responsible, insisting instead that "comfort women” were recruited by civilians and that army brothels were operated commercially.
ipj/msh (AFP, Reuters)