Japan lashes out as S. Korea reviews sex-slave deal

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in addresses the China-South Korea business forum in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 13, 2017. (Yao Dawei/Xinhua/Sipa USA/TNS) Xinhua

Bloomberg News
Wednesday, December 27, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea — Japan reacted angrily after a South Korean government-backed panel said Wednesday that the nations’ two-year old agreement over wartime sex slaves didn’t properly reflect the views of the women coerced into military brothels before and during World War II.

After a five-month review, the nine-member task force found procedural faults in what was hailed as an “irreversible” accord, adding that Japan didn’t voluntarily offer an apology and compensation. President Moon Jae-in’s government will finalize its stance at a later date on the agreement, which was reached under his predecessor.

The results of the review threaten to once again ignite the decades-long dispute between the U.S. allies at a time when closer military and political cooperation is needed in the face of rising North Korean nuclear threats. The two Asian economic powerhouses have a fractious relationship, compounded by competing claims over islets in the sea between the countries.

In December 2015, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a landmark apology to South Korean “comfort women,” with his government agreeing to provide $8.8 million to a fund for compensating victims. At the time, the then foreign ministers of both countries called the deal “irreversible.”

Japan colonized the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945 — a period still recalled with resentment by many Koreans. Abe infuriated South Korea’s public in 2013 when he visited a Tokyo shrine dedicated to fallen soldiers seen by many in Asia as a symbol of past militarism.

Historians estimate anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 women — many of them Korean — served in Japan’s military brothels. Japan apologized in 1993 and set up a compensation fund that was rejected by some victims because it was privately funded.