South Korean victims who were sexually enslaved by Japanese troops during its colonial occupation period (1910-45) protested against the government’s decision to give them money that will be provided by Japan.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the government will provide 100 million won ($90,000) to surviving victims who were forced to serve in military brothels and 20 million won to family members of victims who have already died.
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The money will be offered once Tokyo transfers the 1 billion yen (US$9.96 million) it has committed to provide in the landmark deal to settle the long-running diplomatic feud in December.
Following the announcement, two victims — Kim Bok-dong and Kil Won-ok — held a press conference at a shelter of the victims, in western Seoul, to protest the decision.
“People who ask, ‘Why don’t you just accept the money?’ are those who do not know the pain (suffered by the victims),” Kim told reporters.
She said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should come forward and apologize to the victims, euphemistically called comfort women, and take a lead in restoring their honor.
The comfort women issue is one of the most long-running disputes between the two neighbors. In reaching the Dec. 28 deal, both sides wanted to put an end to the matter once and for all.
Discontent, however, remains over what critics see as a hastily arranged agreement that lacked a sufficient process to gather opinions from victims. Suspicion is also lingering over Japan’s sincerity in its apology.
Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese troops during World War II. The 40 surviving South Korean victims are mostly in their late 80s.
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