SEOUL, May 20 (Korea Bizwire) – Asian victims of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery denounced the agreement reached by Seoul and Tokyo last year by claiming their views were not properly considered.
Wrapping up the 14th Asian Solidarity Conference for the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, the surviving victims adopted a resolution saying the deal “cannot be a resolution of the issue of Japanese military sexual slavery.”
Under last year’s landmark deal, Tokyo expressed its apology and contrition for its colonial-era atrocities and agreed to provide 1 billion yen (US$9.2 million) for a foundation to be established by Seoul to support the surviving victims, euphemistically called “comfort women.”
The agreement, praised by many in the international community as a step in the right direction, aims to end the divisive issue which has been a thorn in bilateral relations for decades and has held up the forging of ties between Seoul and Tokyo. The United States in particular had pushed for a breakthrough on this issue between its two closest Asian allies.
Historians estimate that more than 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were forced into sexual slavery at front-line Japanese brothels during World War II.
The decision, however, has come under fire as some of the victims and their supporters have accused it of failing to obtain Japan’s acknowledgment of legal responsibility. Detractors have also said the agreement was reached without prior consultation with the victims.
The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, which organized the three-day conference, said the deal tramples on the efforts and aspirations of the victims and civil society who have worked on the issue.
During the three-day conference which took place in Seoul, victims and progressive activists from Asian countries including the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and Hong Kong, shared their testimonies and resolved to take collective actions.
The wartime sexual slavery issue has been cited as one of the key stumbling blocks to closer South Korea-Japan relations, along with Tokyo’s efforts to whitewash its history of aggression and territorial claims of South Korea’s easternmost island of Dokdo.
Public sentiment in South Korea is generally sympathetic to the plight of sex slaves, although there are some who view progressive groups supporting the victims as having ulterior motives unrelated to helping those used as sex slaves find peace with the past.
Conservative elements have claimed that anti-government civic groups are actually using the sexual slavery issue as a political tool to hurt Seoul.