SEOUL – South Korea’s parliament passed a bill Friday to officially designate Aug. 14 as a day of commemoration for the Korean women who were forced into brothels for the Japanese military before and during the war.
The day marks when Kim Hak Soon became the first victim to give testimony about the hardships of the former comfort women, in 1991. The day has been observed each year by citizens’ groups since 2013.
In the National Assembly, 205 of the 213 members present voted in favor of the bill, which revises a law on providing support to the victims. Eight members abstained.
The legislative move follows an announcement in July by the government of President Moon Jae-in that South Korea planned to establish the memorial day next year.
When the plan was unveiled, Japan lodged a protest with South Korea on the grounds that Seoul’s plans goes against the spirit of a historic bilateral deal struck in December 2015 to resolve the thorny diplomatic issue “finally and irreversibly.”
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the Japanese government lodged a fresh protest with the South Korean government over the bill’s passage.
The government’s top spokesman said it gave him “an extremely strong sense of discomfort,” adding that Tokyo is “concerned that it could throw cold water (on ties) at a time when both Japan and South Korea are making efforts to develop a future-oriented relationship.”
Moon came into office in May pledging to review the 2015 agreement with Tokyo.
Among other irritants in bilateral relations, Japan has demanded the removal of statues symbolizing the comfort women that were set up outside its embassy in Seoul and its consulate general in Busan.