Foreign minister scolded for inaction on sex slaves

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Foreign minister scolded for inaction on sex slaves

Former World War II sex slaves accused Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kim Sung-hwan on Wednesday of “doing nothing” to get Japan to resolve their long-standing grievances.

Kim held a rare meeting with two of the aging women earlier in the day as frustration runs high with Japan for snubbing calls by Seoul to hold talks to resolve the issue of so-called “comfort women,” a euphemistic reference to Korean women forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during World War II.

At their first meeting with a foreign minister, one of the two women criticized Kim for making no effort to settle the issue with Japan.

“What has the Foreign Ministry done?” Lee Yong-soo, a former comfort woman in her 80s, asked Kim. “It has been doing nothing for the past two decades.”

“Do we have to wait to resolve the issue until we are all dead?” the teary-eyed Lee said.

Since 1992, the aging women have held weekly rallies outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, demanding compensation and an apology from Tokyo. Last month, they held their 1,000th protest.

In response to Lee’s emotional remarks, Kim said he was “sorry” for failing to address the issue with Japan.

The subject of sex slaves is one of the most emotional and unresolved issues between Korea and Japan. The Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony from 1910 through 1945.

Tokyo has acknowledged its wartime military used sex slaves but refuses to issue an apology or compensate the victims individually, arguing the issue was settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized relations between the two countries.

While demanding official bilateral talks on compensation, officials have stressed the issue cannot be regarded as fully resolved by the 1965 Korea-Japan Claims Settlement Agreement because it was a “crime against humanity.”

The issue is becoming an increasingly urgent priority as the surviving comfort women are elderly and fear they may die before they receive compensation or an apology. Yonhap

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