12/28/2015, 00.00
KOREA - JAPAN

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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