OITA – Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama welcomed Monday an agreement reached between Japan and South Korea to create a new fund to resolve the issue of women forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels.
“It has been a long time. I have hoped that it would be resolved as early as possible. It’s a good thing that a resolution has come in sight,” Murayama said at a press conference in Oita Prefecture.
The former prime minister, who apologized for Japan’s wartime aggression in Asia in a landmark 1995 statement, said Tokyo’s “acceptance of responsibility must have been the biggest factor” leading to the agreement, adding the two countries “must have hoped to move new relations forward” by resolving the “comfort women” issue.
The former leader of the Social Democratic Party, who took power in 1994 in a coalition government, said on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II that Japan caused “tremendous damage and suffering” to the people of Asia and other countries through its colonial rule and aggression, and expressed “feelings of deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology.”
His government also initiated the 1995 creation of the Asian Women’s Fund, a private-sector fund to pay atonement money to surviving comfort women that disbanded in 2007. Some of them, however, have rejected the money because they want state compensation.
“It was regrettable that the fund disbanded halfway, but we are here today after that process,” Murayama said.
In their talks Monday in Seoul, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his South Korean counterpart, Yun Byung-se, agreed to set up a new fund amounting to around ¥1 billion ($8.3 million) for the women, with the money coming from the Japanese government’s budget.