SEOUL – A panel of experts urged on Wednesday the South Korean government to revise the agreement reached with Japan in 2015 on issue of comfort women, a topic that has been the source of diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
The panel, made up of members of the government and experts in history and diplomatic relations, was set up by the Moon Jae-in government to deliberate on the bilateral agreement signed by the earlier government that had led to strong criticism within the country.
In December 2015, Japan and South Korea agreed to finally and irreversibly settle the issue of comfort women under the condition that Tokyo would apologize for the abuses committed during its colonization of Korea and allocate one billion yen ($8.8 million) to a foundation supporting the victims.
However, associations of former comfort women and other voices in the South Korean society considered the apology from Japan insufficient and that the government did not take into account the victims of the abuses before reaching the agreement, and called for a revision of the pact.
The panel, set up by the new government under President Moon, has sided with the critics of the agreement and urged the government to seek a fresh pact with Japan, according to the conclusions of the panel’s report presented Wednesday in Seoul.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said at a press conference that from these conclusions, they will gather the opinions of the victims and other involved parties in an approach centered more on them.
Kang also said that Seoul will act with caution and consideration over the possible impact of the revision of the agreement regarding its ties with Japan, according to Yonhap agency.
Tokyo, on its part, said a revision of the pact would be totally unacceptable and urged Seoul to abide by what was agreed between the two countries to definitively settle the contentious issue.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said in a statement that they saw no problem in the process that had led to the agreement and that it was based on a legitimate negotiation between the two governments.
An estimated 200,000 young women, primarily Koreans, were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in the 1930s and during World War II that ended in 1945.