South Korea says ‘comfort women’ row with Japan unresolved despite 2015 deal

A 2015 deal with Japan over South Korean “comfort women” forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels failed to meet the victims’ needs, South Korea said on Wednesday, throwing ties into doubt as both countries seek to rein in North Korea.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha apologized for the controversial deal as a panel appointed by her in July to investigate the negotiations leading up to the agreement unveiled its results.

“I apologize for giving wounds of the heart to the victims, their families, civil society that support them and all other people because the agreement failed to sufficiently reflect a victim-oriented approach, which is the universal standard in resolving human rights issues,” Kang told a news conference.

Under the deal, endorsed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s predecessor and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan apologized to former comfort women and provided 1 billion yen ($8.8 million) to a fund to help them.

The two governments agreed the issue would be “irreversibly resolved” if both fulfilled their obligations.

But Moon has said the South Korean people did not accept the deal.

The investigation concluded that the dispute over the comfort women, a Japanese euphemism for the girls and women, many of them Korean, forced to work in wartime brothels, could not be “fundamentally resolved” because the victims’ demand for Japan’s legal compensation had not been met.

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