South Korean President Moon Jae In said Thursday that a 2015 agreement made with Japan over its wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women is “seriously flawed” and “cannot resolve” the historical issue.
Moon’s remarks came after a government task force review concluded that the victims of Japan’s sex slavery had not been properly consulted during the negotiations with Tokyo which were spearheaded by the former Park Geun Hye administration.
It also unveiled that crucial terms of the agreement had been hidden from the public in order to avoid criticism.
Under the deal, Japan promised to contribute $8.9 million towards a foundation to support the victims. It also issued an apology from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe which was read out by his foreign minister instead.
These measures were deemed insufficient by most of the Korean public as they did not reflect the wishes of the victims as well as lacking in sincerity, especially after a number of Japanese politicians continued to make trivializing remarks about Tokyo’s wartime atrocities.
The panel’s findings released on Wednesday further fuelled public anger, as it emerged that the previous Park administration had concealed major concessions that were made to accomodate Tokyo. One of the terms included dropping the phrase “sexual slavery” in favor of the euphemism “comfort women” to describe the thousands of young girls forced to serve sex to Japanese soldiers.
While acknowledging the deal was made as a formal promise between the two governments, Moon said it was also political, and had failed to include the victims, violating “the universal principle for settling historic issues.”
The South Korean leader called on the government to prepare follow-up measures based on a “victim-centered approach.”
He also pledged to pursue a two-track approach of normalizing diplomatic ties with Japan, while working to resolve contentious historical issues.
Amid calls from civic groups to immediately scrap the deal, the foreign ministry said the government will draw up follow-up measures “as soon as possible.”
Political observers have expressed concern that bilateral ties may suffer a setback if Seoul pursues a change to the agreement.
Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shinbun reported Thursday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had said the country would not move even “one millimeter” regarding the deal.
Tokyo’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday had said there was nothing wrong with the agreement and that attempts to change the terms would make bilateral relations “unmanageable.”
By Jennie Oh