SEOUL – South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se will raise the issue of “comfort women” in a speech to be delivered at a U.N. human rights meeting in Geneva on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
The term is used in Japan to refer to females, mostly from occupied territories in other parts of Asia, who were forced to work at Japanese military brothels before and during World War II.
Yun will “emphasize the importance of efforts by the international community, including the United Nations, in coping with sexual crimes during armed conflicts,” the ministry said in a statement.
He is scheduled to make a keynote speech at the 25th regular session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Yun also plans to address North Korea’s human rights situation, which was harshly criticized by the U.N. Committee of Inquiry.
Wrapping up a yearlong study, the U.N. investigative panel released a report last month that accuses North Korea of committing “unspeakable atrocities,” and calls on the International Criminal Court to investigate the alleged crimes.
“It is the first time since 2006 that a South Korean foreign minister is attending the rights council meeting,” a senior South Korean government official said, according to Yonhap News Agency. “It tells us how serious the Seoul government takes issues related to North Korea and Japan.”
Japan has rejected a request by South Korea to hold talks on the issue of compensating the former comfort women.
Compensating wartime sex slaves has been a thorny issue between the two nations.
Japan set up the government-linked Asian Women’s Fund in 1995 and earmarked ¥2 million in atonement money for each sex slave conscripted to work at Japanese wartime military brothels, but some of the women have rejected the money.
They want direct compensation from the Japanese government.
South Korea has also been infuriated by recent Japanese government moves to screen testimonies by South Korean former sex slaves that served as the basis of a Japanese government apology in 1993 over the comfort women issue.
The Japanese government says all wartime compensation issues between Japan and South Korea were settled under a 1965 bilateral treaty that normalized diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910 to 1945.
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