Task force set to review ‘comfort women’ deal

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Task force set to review ‘comfort women’ deal

South Korea officially launched a task force to review an agreement with Japan reached in 2015 to settle a long-standing bilateral feud over Japan’s imperial-era mobilization of Korean women as sex workers, the foreign ministry said Monday.

The taskforce is tasked with fact-finding and assessing the processes leading up to the signing of the so-called comfort women deal, as well as its terms, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The launch of the special team is in line with President Moon Jae-in’s campaign promise to revisit the bilateral agreement, which has been widely criticized for lacking Japan’s official apology and pledge of liability for its forced sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II.

The previous administration of impeached President Park Geun-hye signed the agreement with Japan on Dec. 28, 2015, to end bilateral feuds stemming from Japan’s 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula once and for all. Under the deal, Japan paid 1 billion yen ($9 million) to a South Korean foundation dedicated to supporting the surviving victims.

Up to 200,000 Asian women, many from Korea, were believed to have been forced into sexual servitude for the imperialist Japanese troops during World War II as so-called comfort women during the war.

Several of the dozens of living South Korean victims refused financial compensation from the foundation in defiance of the bilateral deal, which was forged without their consent and called for the removal of a symbolic comfort woman statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told the nine-member team to thoroughly vet the agreement from the perspective of the comfort women victims, according to the ministry. The taskforce plans to make the result of its assessment public by the end of this year, the ministry said. Upon the result, the Moon administration is expected to make a final decision whether to retain or opt out of the deal.

The team is headed by Oh Tai-kyu, formerly a progressive journalist who advised Moon on social issues while on the president’s transition team.

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