SEOUL – The government has transferred ¥1 billion ($9.8 million) to a South Korean fund established to help women who were forced into wartime brothels for the Japanese military, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
The transaction was confirmed after the money arrived in the bank account of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation on Thursday.
The foundation was set up in July by the South Korean government to support the survivors, euphemistically known as “comfort women” in Japan, under a historic deal reached between the two countries late last year.
The Japanese government decided to go through with the transfer at a Cabinet meeting on Aug. 24.
A total of 245 women, living and deceased, and their relatives are eligible to receive the money, which will be handed out in cash as expenses for “projects for recovering the honor and dignity and healing the psychological wounds” of all former comfort women, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Around ¥2 million will be disbursed to each family of any comfort woman who had died by the end of last year, while those still alive will get about ¥10 million each.
Japan assumes the money will be used for medical and nursing purposes, funeral costs and scholarships for relatives, Japanese officials said earlier.
The transfer to the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation means Tokyo has completed all of its responsibilities promised under the landmark deal struck last December to permanently settle the issue, Japanese officials said.
The comfort women issue has been a constant thorn in bilateral ties, but the terms of the agreement state that the issue is resolved “finally and irreversibly.”
Following the transfer, the focus shifts to whether South Korea will act on Japan’s desire to have a statue of a girl symbolizing the comfort women removed from in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
The deal did not mention the removal of the statue as a condition for Tokyo’s financial contribution, but states that the South Korean government “will strive to solve this issue in an appropriate manner.”
The South Korean government has been cautious about removing the statue, which was erected by protesters, in consideration of public sentiment.
The deal represents a milestone in Japan-South Korea ties, which have often been marred by disagreements over history.
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