Rallies in South Korea against ‘comfort women’ deal

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Seoul, Jan 2 (IANS) South Koreans took to the streets Saturday to protest a recent agreement between Seoul and Japan to resolve the issue of Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during the Second World War.

The agreement, reached on December 28, 2015, has sparked a wave of public protests among victims and their supporters, who claim Japan got the better side of the deal by obtaining Seoul’s promise to settle the issue once and for all if Tokyo fulfils its commitments, The Korea Herald reported.

Under the deal, Japan apologised and acknowledged responsibility for the wartime crime and offered reparations of 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) to the 46 surviving South Korean victims.

Historians estimate that more than 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japan’s military during the war. Korea was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910-45. The victims are called “comfort women”.

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More than 30 teenage activists from across the country held a press conference in front of the main government complex in Seoul, denouncing the agreement as “humiliating”.

They demanded the Japanese government pay legal compensation to the victims, build a monument in their honour and conduct proper education on the history.

A group of university students held a separate press conference in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, where they accused the police of wielding violence while arresting them on Thursday over a sudden protest held at a nearby building where the embassy has temporarily relocated to.

“The actions of the police resemble the violence of the meeting between the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan that tried to erase the history of the comfort women,” they said, referring to the meeting that produced the agreement.

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Two of the victims, 89-year-old Kim Bok-dong and 87-year-old Kil Won-ok, are scheduled to attend a rally later in the day to demand the agreement be scrapped.

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