GENEVA – The U.N. Committee against Torture has called on Japan and South Korea to revise their agreement for ending the dispute over the girls and women who were forced into Japanese military brothels before and during the war.
The agreement should be modified to “ensure that the surviving victims of sexual slavery during World War II are provided with redress, including the right to compensation and rehabilitation and the right to truth, reparation and assurances of non-repetitions,” the committee said in a report.
The recommendation could prompt the administration of new South Korean President Moon Jae-in to demand new negotiations on the accord, but the recommendation is not legally binding and Japan has no obligation to comply.
Japan and South Korea struck the landmark deal in December 2015 to “finally and irreversibly” resolve their protracted dispute over the so-called comfort women, Japan’s euphemism for the victims, many of whom were Korean.
In line with the terms of the deal, Tokyo disbursed ¥1 billion ($8.9 million) last year to a South Korean fund to help former comfort women and their families.
Speaking with Moon by phone on Thursday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attached importance to implementing the accord, but Moon replied that “most South Korean people are emotionally unable to accept” the deal.
The Committee against Torture was established in 1988 in line with the 1984 U.N. Convention against Torture, which bans police and government organizations of states that are party to the convention from acts or torture and other inhuman treatment. Japan became party to the pact in 1999.
The committee evaluates member countries’ compliance on a regular basis and issues recommendations if problems are found.
In May 2013, the U.N. human rights panel urged the Japanese government to “refute attempts to deny the facts by the government authorities and public figures and to re-traumatize the victims through such denials.”
The document was issued after then-Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said comfort women had been necessary to maintain discipline in the military, sparking anger in South Korea and elsewhere.
Japan rejected the document, issuing a statement saying the recommendation “does not oblige member countries to comply.” The statement was approved at a Cabinet meeting the following month.