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News Navigator: What is the Japan-South Korea 'comfort women' agreement?

The Mainichi answers common questions readers may have about Japan's agreement with South Korea on resolving the "comfort women" issue.

Question: What exactly is the Japan-South Korea agreement on the comfort women issue?

Answer: It is the "final and irreversible resolution" to the issue agreed upon under the leadership of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former South Korean President Park Geun-hye during a foreign ministerial conference in Seoul in December 2015.

Q: Had the issue not been solved before then?

A: The Japanese government takes the view that historical issues were resolved under the 1965 "agreement on the settlement of problems concerning property and claims and on economic cooperation." Nevertheless, as the comfort women problem came into the international spotlight, the Japanese government in the 1990s set up the Asian Women's Fund as a means of providing humanitarian support, and compensation was granted through this fund. However, organizations supporting comfort women resisted this move, and many former comfort women refused to receive compensation. The operation was thus unsuccessful. In August 2011, South Korea's constitutional court ruled that South Korea's failure to act in seeking additional negotiations with the Japanese government was unconstitutional. After this, both the Japanese and South Korean governments sought a solution. The result was the December 2015 accord.

Q: What does the accord cover?

A: It states, "The issue of comfort women, with the involvement of Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women, and the Government of Japan is painfully aware of responsibilities from this perspective." It also states that as Prime Minister of Japan, Prime Minister Abe "expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse." Japan also promised to contribute 1 billion yen to a foundation that the accord said the South Korean government had decided to establish. The agreement furthermore recognized Japan's concerns about a statue symbolizing comfort women that was built in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul and said it would "strive to solve this issue in an appropriate manner."

Q: Have steps been made toward resolving the issues?

A: The Japanese government has already sent the money it promised to provide to the foundation. Some of the foundation's money is supposed to be paid to former comfort women, and by the end of last year, 34 people, or 70 percent of the survivors, had announced they would receive payments. However, 70 percent of the South Korean public is critical of the agreement, so it's possible the administration of newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in may seek to review the accord.

Q: What has happed to the statue?

A: In addition to that statue, another one was erected in front of the Japanese Consulate General in Busan in December 2016. The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that this is inappropriate in light of the agreement between Japan and South Korea, and is urging the city and ward in charge of road management to move the statue, but this hasn't been done yet. (Answers by Aya Takeuchi, Foreign News Department)

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