Japan apologises to South Korea over wartime sex slavery

Seoul, Dec 28 (IANS) Japan on Monday apologised to South Korea over the Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during the World War II as the two countries reached a landmark deal on the sensitive issue that has remained a sore point in relations for decades.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumoi Kishida at a joint press conference here with South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se read a statement that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe “expresses apology and remorse from the heart for all the people suffering hard-to-cure wounds and many pains” physically and psychologically.

“The comfort women issue is an issue whereby many women under the then military’s involvement bore deep scars to their honour and dignity, and from this perspective, the Japanese government acutely feels responsible,” Kishida said in the joint statement,the Korea Herald reported.

Japan has expressed its regret, contrition and apology for its colonial-era sexual enslavement of Korean women, and agreed to provide 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) for a foundation to be established by South Korea to support the surviving victims.

The two sides said that the foundation would be erected to carry out a series of projects to “restore the honour and dignity of the victims, and heal their psychological scars.”

The Tokyo government also said that it “felt strongly” about its responsibility for the wartime atrocities that have been at the core of South Korea’s historical resentment toward its onetime colonizer.

Japan colonised Korea from 1910-45.

Japan had claimed the issue was already settled under a 1965 treaty normalising bilateral ties.

But Seoul had claimed the issue was not on the agenda for the negotiations over the treaty at the time, given that it was only in the 1990s that victims started to raise the issue.

It also claimed that it was a wartime human rights issue that should be dealt with separately.

So far, 238 South Korean victims have registered with the government. Of them, only 46 victims, including four living abroad, are still alive. Their average age is 89.

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