Japan was assured by South Korea that a planned initiative by Seoul to raise global awareness of violence against women is unrelated to the thorny bilateral “comfort women” issue, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Wednesday.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry explained that the Action with Women and Peace initiative is designed for Seoul to take a leadership role in eradicating sexual violence in troubled regions around the world and to encourage women to actively contribute to resolving conflicts, according to Kono.
“We were told that this (initiative) has nothing at all to do with the comfort women issue,” Kono told reporters on Wednesday. The term comfort women is a euphemism for those forced to provide sex for Japanese troops before and during World War II.
The remarks came a day after Kono expressed doubts about the new initiative, claiming that it violates “the spirit” of the landmark 2015 agreement between Tokyo and Seoul to “finally and irreversibly” settle the comfort women issue.
Earlier, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told a news conference that the ministry would unveil plans by the end of this month to raise awareness of the comfort women issue as a case of “wartime sexual violence” that represents a serious violation of human rights.
The lineup of advisory board members involved in crafting of the new initiative includes a civic group leader dealing with the comfort women issue.
As this year marks the 20th anniversary of a bilateral declaration to improve ties for the 21st century, Kono said, Japan will make “utmost efforts to build forward-looking, future-oriented ties with Seoul.”
Relations between Tokyo and Seoul have routinely foundered over issues related to wartime history and territory.