Demand to rip up comfort women deal grows

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Demand to rip up comfort women deal grows

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A recent call for the nullification of an agreement between Seoul and Tokyo over the Imperial Japanese Army’s sexual enslavement of Korean women and girls during World War II has been endorsed by nearly 50 regional governments countrywide.

A statement was read out Tuesday during a rally in Cheonggye Plaza in central Seoul decrying the Dec. 28 agreement between Korea and Japan, which was supposed to put an end to their long-running dispute over the sex slaves.

It was chiefly organized by the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a prominent nongovernment group that supports former sex slaves, euphemistically known here as “comfort women.”

The rally was one of a number of cultural activities and campaigns that took place in more than 20 different locations across the nation as far away as Jeju Island.

Reiterating their previous stance, the organizing group, also known as the Korean Council, said that the Dec. 28 agreement between Seoul and Tokyo didn’t include a legal apology from Japan or any legal form of compensation, and should be scrapped.

The statement was reportedly signed by 17 district office chiefs in Seoul and 14 from Gyeonggi, among other regional governments.

Tuesday marked the March 1st Independence Movement, a national holiday that celebrates one of the earliest and largest displays of Korea’s defiance to the rule of imperial Japan. The Korean Council said in a press release that releasing its statement on that date was aimed at “remembering the spirit” of that historical moment and reigniting it nearly a century later.

Late last year, Tokyo came forward with an apology and a pledge to set up a 1 billion yen ($8.8 million) fund backed by its state budget for the former sex slaves. The foreign ministries of Korea and Japan agreed that the settlement was “final and irreversible” as long as Japan faithfully follows through with its promises.

But for many activists and comfort women who fought decades to raise awareness of the issue in Korea and abroad, the agreement was not enough. Survivors refused to receive the money since it wasn’t legal compensation for damages.

In Cheonggye Plaza near Seoul City Hall, the Korean Council set up educational booths and read out politically charged statements, saying the nearly 50 regional government offices that signed their statement have also agreed to work with their international sister cities to establish Peace Monuments abroad.

The Peace Monument, a bronze statue of a 13-year-old girl in traditional Korean attire, is a symbol of the victims and versions have been erected in nearly 30 different locations around the world.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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