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The government’s top spokesman denied Monday that its quasi-private fund set up to compensate women who were forced into sexual slavery for the Imperial Japanese Army during the war will be shut down due to South Korean opposition, but he said Japan will have to take Seoul’s wishes into consideration.

A Japanese daily reported Sunday that the Asian Women’s Fund, set up in 1995 with the backing of the Japanese government, may be abolished due to objections by Seoul.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said he has not been informed that the fund will be halted, but added that South Korean President Kim Dae Jung told Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi when he visited Tokyo last fall that the “comfort women” issue should be dealt with by the South Korean government.

Kim also said South Korea, in order to establish a future-oriented relationship with Japan, will not focus so much on past history, Nonaka said.

The Asian Women’s Fund began offering a 2 million yen lump-sum payment to victims in 1996, but many of the women have refused the money, saying they want the Japanese government to pay direct compensation and offer a clear apology.

South Korea, which has repeatedly voiced displeasure with the payments because of the fund’s nonofficial nature, began last May to give 35,608,000 won (3.5 million yen) to each of the 139 former South Korean comfort women on its list.

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