Japanese, South Korean officials set to hold talks on ‘comfort women’ deal

JIJI

The Japanese and South Korean governments said Monday they will hold a meeting of foreign ministry directors-general in Tokyo on Tuesday on a bilateral deal clinched in December to resolve the issue of so-called wartime comfort women.

Participants will mainly discuss the establishment of a foundation intended to give financial assistance to former comfort women in South Korea, who were forced to provide sex at Japanese military brothels before and during World War II.

The two countries have held director-general-level talks on the issue since 2014, but Tuesday’s meeting will be the first since the landmark agreement.

Kimihiro Ishikane, director-general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and Chung Byung-won, director-general of the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s Northeast Asian Affairs Bureau, will attend the meeting.

Under the bilateral agreement, the Japanese government committed to providing ¥1 billion to a foundation established by the South Korean government. But the financial aid has not been implemented due to strong opposition in South Korea.

The agreement also included a pledge by South Korea pledge to “make efforts” to remove a statute symbolizing the comfort women issue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. Japan had made the request, but no progress has been made.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed eagerness to hold talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye during the two-day Nuclear Security Summit to be held in Washington starting March 31.

The foreign ministry officials from the two countries are expected to lay the groundwork for top-level diplomacy between the Asian nations.