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  • » 12/28/2015, 00.00


    Historic agreement with Seoul as Tokyo apologizes for "comfort women"

    The issue of "sex slaves" sent to Japanese barracks before and during World War II has been open since 1965. Today the Land of the Rising Sun offers “heartfelt apologies" for what happened and pays 1 billion yen to a fund for the welfare of those who have survived. The agreement paves the way for greater cooperation between the two nations, crushed by China.

    Seoul (AsiaNews) - The governments of Japan and South Korea have reached an historic agreement to settle the controversial issue of "comfort women", forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers before and during World War II.

    Tokyo has announced the allocation of 1 billion yen (about 8.3 million dollars) for a fund - administered by Seoul - which guarantees the "greatest possible prosperity " for those who have survived. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also expressed "heartfelt apologies" for what happened through his foreign minister.

    Thus far it is a preliminary agreement, signed in Seoul by the two foreign ministers. Fumio Kishida, a representative of the Land of the Rising Sun, arrived this morning in the South Korean capital. His counterpart Yun Byung-se said: " Abe, as the prime minister of Japan, offers from his heart an apology and reflection for everyone who suffered lots of pain and received scars that are difficult to heal physically and mentally, ".

    The question had been opened in 1965, when both Tokyo that Seoul began to break free from the administrative control of the United States imposed after the end of the war. According to the Koreans, the "comfort women" were 400 thousand women abducted by force or deception to work in brothels or in the Japanese barracks spread throughout Asia; for the Japanese, it was a human trafficking (involving "at most 40 thousand people") orchestrated by individuals and not by representatives of the army or the executive. Today there are just over 50survivors. Pope Francis met with some of these women before the final Mass of his apostolic trip to Korea.

    Korea was a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945. During the press conference that concluded the meeting, Kishida said: "Based on the fact that the issue has left deep wounds to the honor and dignity of many women due to the involvement of the Japanese army, the Land of the Rising Sun feels very responsible”.

    The agreement now opens the path for further bilateral relations between the two nations, crushed by the Chinese presence in the area. According to Korean sources, the official apology expressed in person by Shinzo Abe will come during a bilateral meeting to be held in the US in March 2016, on the sidelines of a meeting on nuclear disarmament. From that point on, analysts of both countries are in agreement that Seoul and Tokyo "will do everything" to reinforce it in a reciprocal manner.

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    See also

    03/03/2012 SOUTH KOREA - JAPAN
    Lee Myung-bak warns Tokyo to solve the comfort women issue
    For the first time, a South Korean leader raises the issue during celebrations marking the birth of the country's independent movement on 1 March and the start of the fight against Japanese colonialism. The president also expressed his solidarity with a lawmaker on a hunger strike to protest China's decision to repatriate North Korean refugees.

    02/02/2015 KOREA - NEW SLAVES
    Korea's illegal migrants, the "outcast engine" of a growing economy
    On February 8 the Church celebrates the first day of prayer and reflection against human trafficking. In preparation for it, AsiaNews presents stories and testimonies of migrants in Asia and missionaries who try to help them. The situation in wealthy South Korea, where work is not lacking, but the workers are too often victims of "new slavery".

    06/02/2015 KOREA - NEW SLAVES
    The salt mines, "hell on earth" for the disabled in South Korea
    Sinan county produces two-thirds of all the salt used in the country. Composed of dozens of small islands, it is focused on the production of the mineral. Salt mining has long relied on the victims of human trafficking used as slaves until they flee or die. The connivance of local authorities and the indifference of the central government maintain the status quo. The story of Kim, blind, mentally retarded, kidnapped in Seoul and forced to split salt.

    13/01/2016 SOUTH KOREA – JAPAN
    For the Korean Church, the agreement on 'comfort women' tramples victims’ human rights
    The Bishops’ Commission for Justice and Peace slams the deal between Tokyo and Seoul on wartime sexual enslavement. For Bishop You, “the deal reflects economic and diplomatic priorities; in doing so, it fails to seek real peace, because peace requires justice. In the Holy Year of Mercy, the guilty need to undergo real conversion; that is the way.” The prelate also met some survivors (pictured).

    24/07/2014 JAPAN - KOREA
    Tokyo government to make “officially apology” to Korean comfort women
    Announced by Junichi Ihara, head of Asian Affairs of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the end of a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Sang-deok. The issue of women sexually exploited by Japanese soldiers has divided the two nations since the end of World War II. Today only 54 remain alive: some will meet the Pope during his visit to South Korea

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