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The Asian Women’s Fund on Thursday criticized the South Korean government’s decision to suspend aid to women who have received “atonement money” from the private Japanese government-initiated fund.

The fund said during a Tokyo news conference that it wants Seoul to reconsider its move to exclude those who have received money from the Japanese fund.

In August 1996, the controversial fund paid 2 million yen plus medical and welfare aid and sent a letter of apology from Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to four Philippine women forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers before and during World War II.

Fund officials also criticized the South Korean government for reportedly forcing those who accept money from its own fund to pledge in writing that they will not take money from the Japanese fund. “That would be equal to a nation state coercing the women not to accept money from the Asian Women’s Fund,” the fund said in a written statement. “Would that not constitute yet another infringement on their human rights?”

Seven South Korean “comfort women” received aid from the fund in January 1997; since then more than 10 others reportedly have received payments. As of the beginning of April, “more than 70 women” have received money from the fund, officials said while refusing to give a country-by-country breakdown of recipients, citing privacy concerns.

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