Korean Victims, Civic Groups Reject Japanese Apology and Compensation

Comfort Women, rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, August 2011 (Claire Solery)

Following the landmark agreement between Japan and South Korea over the Korean Comfort Women issue, the women themselves and civic groups are saying that the agreement is insufficient, the apology insincere and that Japan has failed to adequately admit its legal responsibility.

The 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) compensation fund is also being dismissed, with groups saying that money is not the major issue.

“It seems neither government cares about the victims,” Lee Yong-soo, one of the remaining 46 survivors, told journalists in Seoul following the agreement. “I don’t count what they have agreed today.”


While acknowledging that Japan is apologetic, Lee said there has been a lack of action.

“What we want is not monetary compensation but a legal one,” said Lee. “We don’t want money. Those who commit crimes must take official, legal responsibility. I will fight until the day I die.”

Abe statement following agreement

Kim Yong-beom, with the Korean National Commission of UNESCO, said that Japan has a long way to go in expressing its true sincerity and that the agreement is little more than a wasteful pacifier for the victims.


“This means Japan still does not recognize that sex slavery was a crime orchestrated by its government. This whole thing makes me feel like Korea is being treated like a whining child, and Japan is the mother who gives the child money by saying, ‘Take this. That’s it. Enough is enough.'”

The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan suggested it was a case of collusion between the Korean and Japanese governments.

“The Japanese government did not say clearly that it is the culprit of the crime,” the group said in a released statement reports The Korea Times.

“The Japanese government should actively carry out follow-up measures, but it attempts to pass the buck to the Korean government by setting up the foundation.”

Survivor Kang Il-chul compared the latest compensation package to the 1995 Asian Women’s Fund set up by Japan to support former sex slaves across Asia. That agreement was criticized due to its private funding, not direct funding from the Japanese government.

The fund was dissolved in 2007 with only seven Korean survivors accepting the money.

“The fund is not different from the Asian Women’s Fund. Only the Japanese government’s legal compensation and official apology will be the answer for us,” said Kang.

Another civic group, the Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea said, “The Korean government should not accept the Japanese government’s attitude to gloss over the issue with money without taking national, legal and moral responsibility.”

Some victims willing to accept deal

“I know the government has made efforts to resolve the issue within this year, so I’ll follow their decision,” Yu Hee-nam said during a media briefing at the House of Sharing, a shelter for the former sex slaves.

Again, Yu echoed the sentiment that it’s not about the compensation. “Money is not the issue. We’ve lived without human rights.”

“I feel this is an easy solution which Koreans will regret later,” Lim Hye-jin, a woman in Seoul told the Korea Times. “We have taken it too quickly. As a woman, the issue is complex and time-consuming, and we should have taken our time instead of rushing to grab what’s been offered by Japan.”


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