Tokyo objects to UN ruling on comfort women deal

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Tokyo objects to UN ruling on comfort women deal

Tokyo raised an objection with the United Nations human rights watchdog after its Committee against Torture recently called for the revision of the 2015 settlement between Korea and Japan to resolve the wartime sexual slavery issue because the agreement failed to properly redress victims.

The Japanese government on Monday submitted this objection to the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner over the recommendations by a report of the Committee against Torture, stressing that the Dec. 28, 2015, deal between Korea and Japan to resolve the so-called comfort issue is “final and irreversible,” reported Japanese media Tuesday.

This comes amid Tokyo’s concern that the new government in Seoul will call for a renegotiation of the settlement to resolve the issue of the Japanese military’s forceful recruitment of Korean girls and young women into sexual slavery during World War II.

In a human rights report released on May 12, the UN Committee against Torture recommended revising the 2015 agreement between Korea and Japan, pointing out that it had failed to “provide redress and reparation,” including compensation, to the victims.

The deal, struck between the two countries’ foreign ministries, consisted of the Japanese prime minister’s apology and a 1 billion yen ($8.98 million) fund for the victims. The two countries also agreed that the settlement is “final and irreversible,” as long as both sides faithfully follow through with it.

The committee’s report on “Concluding observations on the third to fifth periodic reports of the Republic of Korea,” pointed out this deal further failed to assure the right to make facts known and that history is not repeated.

It went on to recommend a revision of the Dec. 28 agreement “in order to ensure that the surviving victims of sexual slavery during World War II are provided with redress, including the right to compensation and rehabilitation and the right to truth, reparation and assurances of non-repetitions.”

From the onset, the agreement has been criticized by victims as well as civic activists who called upon Tokyo to take clearer legal responsibility.

Cho June-hyuck, spokesman of the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Tuesday that it has noted the recommendation of the UN committee and that related branches are “reviewing it.”

He added the ministry is aware of Tokyo’s objection and that it is also “currently reviewing this opinion submitted by Japan.”

Japan has rejected the need for a revision of the agreement, claiming that there is “no evidence” of the forceful nature of the recruitment of the victims and that it has kept its end of the deal by transferring over 1 billion yen to Seoul.

President Moon Jae-in has said during his presidential campaign that the agreement should be renegotiated so that the surviving victims are satisfied.

In his first phone conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on May 11, Moon relayed that the deal was “not accepted” by most of the general public in Korea. This message was also conveyed through Moon’s special envoy to Tokyo, Moon Hee-sang, a fifth-term lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party. Moon’s new foreign minister nominee, Kang Kyung-wha, who has served in key human rights posts in the UN, is also known to have taken a firm stance on Japan’s wartime sexual slavery, calling for international attention to the issue.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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