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Ex-comfort woman publicly praises Japan-S. Korea agreement

In this file photo, people gather around the statue of a girl in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, on June 17, 2016. The writing in the back calls for abolishment of the Japan-South Korea agreement on comfort women issue. (Mainichi)

SEOUL -- An 87-year-old former "comfort woman" announced her support for a Japan-South Korea agreement on the wartime comfort women issue, praising the bilateral accord for settling the issue in her generation.

"I think it was very good (that the agreement was reached). It helped to settle the issue and not leave it to our descendants," the woman said during an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun and other news outlets on June 17. She is the first former comfort woman to publicly accept the bilateral accord reached in December last year. (The woman's name has been withheld by the Mainichi Shimbun.)

The woman is one of the 42 surviving former comfort women registered with the South Korean government. She said that in 1944, when she was 16 years old, a sword-wielding man forced her and other women to assemble in a warehouse in Hyesan, a northern city in what is now part of North Korea. She says she was shipped to northeastern China in a train and forced to work at a "comfort station" for about a year.

"I was never sold off by my parents or went away (from home) to make money," the woman said.

The woman touched on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's statement in which he offered his "most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women," and said, "I didn't think Prime Minister Abe would offer an apology, but he recognized (Japan's) past wrongdoing. I appreciate (Abe's apology) by itself." She added that she welcomed the launch of the foundation, a part of the bilateral agreement.

She requested that both governments take steady steps to implement the agreement, saying, "If the bilateral accord is nullified, both the South Korean and Japanese governments would be deceiving their people."

Furthermore, the woman said the statue of a girl representing comfort women that has been erected in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul should be moved to Nam Mountain in the center of the city, since the South Korean government says it does not own the statue and because it does not belong to former comfort women, but rather was set up by private citizens.

Regarding the support she expects from the foundation to be set up by the South Korean government, the woman said she hopes the deposit for a home where she can live until she dies is paid for. She said she conveyed her intentions to those involved in the foundation.

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