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No evidence of military coercion of "comfort women": Japan gov't

• Japan has found no documents confirming the so-called comfort women were forcefully recruited by military or government authorities, a Japanese envoy told a U.N. panel Tuesday.
• Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama said that during a session in Geneva of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
• The belief that women were forced into sexual servitude is based on the false accounts of the late Seiji Yoshida, the Japanese envoy indicated.
• Yoshida claimed to have forcibly taken women from the island of Jeju, then under Japanese colonial rule and now part of South Korea, and forced them into sexual labor for the Japanese military before and during World War II.
• The Asahi Shimbun in 2014 retracted articles that reported Yoshida's accounts, Sugiyama noted.
• Sugiyama also explained to the U.N. committee the historic Japan-South Korean accord reached last December to "finally and irreversibly" resolve the protracted dispute over comfort women issue.
• At the outset of his statement at the U.N. panel, Sugiyama said Japan will take a lead to make the 21st century a period when women's human rights are not violated.
• Japan last month sent to the panel its answers to 22 questions, in which Tokyo said no coercion has been confirmed. In January, South Korea refuted that claim, calling the coercion a historic fact.
• The panel is tasked with monitoring nations' compliance with the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It is scheduled to issue on March 7 its findings regarding Japan and other nations under review. (Feb. 16)

S. Korea's Park sings own praises on 'comfort women' agreement

• South Korean President Park Geun Hye on Tuesday trumpeted the efforts of her administration toward solving the long-standing issue of women forced into wartime Japanese military brothels, the presidential office said.
• In remarks made in a morning Cabinet meeting, Park listed the Dec. 28 agreement with Japan among "difficult issues that previous administrations left alone" and that she is committed to solving.
• Meanwhile, according to a New Year's survey conducted by the mass-circulation JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, more than half of respondents, or 58.2 percent, answered that they "did not agree" with the notion that the deal had settled the so-called "comfort women" issue finally and irreversibly, while 37.3 percent said they did agree.
• On whether the South Korean government should make an effort toward moving a statue symbolizing the issue located in front of the Japanese Embassy, 74.4 percent of all respondents voiced opposition.
• Moreover, 76.6 percent of respondents said they did not feel Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's apology expressed in the agreement was genuine, indicating the skepticism with which the agreement is viewed. (Jan. 5)


S. Korean gov't to go ahead with "comfort women" white paper

• A South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that a "Comfort Women White Paper" being prepared by the country's Gender Equality and Family Ministry since last year to shed light on the issue of women forced into wartime Japanese military brothels will be published on schedule.
• The spokesman said the issuance of the white paper is "unrelated" to the Dec. 28 agreement between South Korea and Japan to end the decades-long issue "finally and irreversibly."
• The move is likely to draw criticism from Japan as a violation of the deal, which includes a promise that the two sides not criticize each other at the international stage over the issue.
• The Gender Equality and Family Ministry earlier said it plans to translate the paper into various languages including English, Japanese and Chinese.
• On the issue of a statue symbolizing the so-called "comfort women" located in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul that Japan wants removed, the spokesman stressed that the matter is not covered by the agreement.
• "Since it was erected by a civic group, the government can't just tell them what to do or not to do," the spokesman said.
• The Japanese government has indicated that funds it will provide under the agreement to help the surviving now-elderly women will be contingent on removal of the statue.
• The removal of the statue was not mentioned as a condition for the Japanese financial aid in a joint announcement released by Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se after their talks in Seoul on Dec. 28 that led to the deal. (Jan. 5)

Senior Japan, S. Korea, U.S. diplomats to meet in Tokyo in mid-Jan.

• Senior diplomats from Japan, South Korea and the United States plan to meet in Tokyo in the middle of this month to reaffirm trilateral security cooperation amid growing concerns over an increasingly assertive China and nuclear ambitions of North Korea, diplomatic sources said Monday.
• The diplomats are hoping to push for stronger ties among their countries by building on the momentum of a deal struck between Japan and South Korea late last year to "finally and irreversibly" resolve the drawn-out dispute over Korean women who were forced to work in Japan's wartime military brothels, they said.
• Japan will be represented by its vice foreign minister, Akitaka Saiki, the United States by Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and South Korea by Lim Sung Nam, first vice minister of foreign affairs, the sources said.
• Both Japan and the United States are increasingly concerned about China's recent step to land a plane on an airstrip it constructed in a contested part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China claims sovereignty over most of that sea and has overlapping territorial claims with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.
• Tokyo and Washington are believed to urge Seoul to be on the same page as they are when it comes to China's maritime forays, the sources said. South Korea has been seen as being hesitant in criticizing China's assertiveness at sea apparently to avoid hurting ties with China.
• Some people in Japan and South Korea have been critical of the landmark deal to settle the issue of so-called "comfort women," which includes contributing from Japan's state budget to provide support for the women. Some have branded the agreement a "diplomatic defeat."
• Washington, eager to see strong ties between Tokyo and Seoul, is expected to reiterate its support for the agreement and seek that the issue not be raised again in the future, the sources said.
• When they meet, the diplomats plan to agree on the importance of working together to address North Korean nuclear and missile issues.
• They are also likely to discuss the long-stalled issue of signing at an early date the General Security of Military Information Agreement between Japan and South Korea, the sources said.
• In 2012, Tokyo and Seoul put off signing the agreement, aimed at sharing classified information, due to opposition in South Korea.
• Another issue that could be on the agenda is that of concluding an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement between the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the South Korean military, which would enable reciprocal provision of supplies, the sources said.
• The diplomats may discuss as well a proposal for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Park Geun Hye and U.S. President Barack Obama to hold a meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit which opens March 31 in Washington, according to the sources. (Jan. 4)

Japan does not intend to apply "comfort women" deal elsewhere

• Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga indicated Monday that Tokyo does not intend to take similar steps over so-called comfort women with countries and regions other than South Korea, with which Japan recently struck a landmark deal to resolve the dispute.
• The remarks during a Japanese TV program came after Taiwan raised the prospect of talks with Japan over the issue of Taiwanese women forced to work in Japan's wartime military brothels.
• "This time, (the Japanese and South Korean) governments only confirmed the resolution of a long-running issue between Japan and South Korea after making maximum efforts," Suga said.
• He suggested that Japan has dealt with the parties concerned over the issue of comfort women in a sincere manner.
• A high-level Japanese official said separately that Tokyo has no intention of launching new talks with the Taiwanese government over the issue, even though Taipei is looking to find out concrete demands from former comfort women in Taiwan and enter talks with Tokyo.
• Japan and South Korea reached an agreement on Dec. 28 in which Japan offered to provide 1 billion yen for a new South Korean foundation aimed at helping aging former comfort women and admitted to involvement by the country's old military in the issue.
• The Taiwanese government has been asking the Japanese government to offer an official apology and compensation to Taiwanese victims. (Jan. 4)

S. Korea, Japan to reopen "comfort women" talks possibly in Jan.

• South Korea and Japan will hold follow-up talks as early as this month on a landmark deal reached in late December to settle the issue of the so-called "comfort women", diplomatic sources familiar with bilateral relations said Sunday.
• The two countries have agreed to continue their director-general talks to discuss the process of implementing the deal, but negotiations could face rough going as Japan and South Korea have put different interpretations on conditions to carry out the accord.
• Japan has indicated its 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) contribution to a fund to help former comfort women will be contingent on removal of a statue of a girl, symbolizing the victims, that sits outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, according to a Japanese government source.
• However, a South Korean government official has said Seoul has not promised the removal of the statue, which is not included in the agreement.
• Meanwhile, an official of South Korea's Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has said the ministry has started talks with Japanese Foreign Ministry officials on a foundation that will be established and run with funds contributed by the Japanese government.
• At a joint news conference in South Korea last Monday after the two countries' foreign ministers reached the accord, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se said Seoul "acknowledges" Tokyo's concern about the statue and that it will "strive to solve this issue in an appropriate manner."
• His Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida said he thinks it "will be relocated appropriately."
• The statue of a girl was erected in 2011 by the Korean Council of Women Drafted for Sexual Slavery by Japan, a civic group helping former comfort women, on a sidewalk near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
• The South Korean civic group has strongly objected to the agreement and insists it will not remove the statue.
• Many people in South Korea are not happy about removal of the statue as the administration of President Park Geun Hye struck the deal with Japan without asking the former comfort women's opinions beforehand.
• Two vice foreign ministers of South Korea met with former comfort women last Tuesday in an attempt to persuade them to accept the removal of the statue, but they were rejected.
• A South Korean government source said the Park administration is now considering appointing a minister in charge of holding talks with the former comfort women. Some conservatives have proposed that the president should try to persuade them by herself. (Jan. 3)

S. Korea presidential office seeks understanding of Japan deal

• The South Korean presidential office on Thursday issued a statement to the public appealing for understanding of this week's landmark agreement with Japan to resolve the issue of women who were forced to work in Japan's wartime military brothels.
• "We ask for the understanding of the South Korean people and the former 'comfort women' from a broad standpoint, and wish that everyone work together for the future of the country," the office said.
• Meanwhile, Moon Jae In, leader of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, visited the House of Sharing, a group home for former comfort women in the outskirts of Seoul, where he denounced Monday's agreement.
• Moon told women at the home who voiced dissatisfaction with the agreement that his party would hold Japan legally responsible and win an apology and compensation from Tokyo.
• In the agreement, Japan offered to provide 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) for a new South Korean fund aimed at helping aging former comfort women and admitted to involvement by the Japanese military in the issue. (Dec. 31)

30 students detained for trespassing at Japanese Embassy in Seoul

• Around 30 university students were detained on suspicion of trespassing Thursday while holding an unauthorized rally in a building in central Seoul where the Japanese Embassy is temporarily located, according to police sources.
• The students were protesting against this week's landmark deal between Japan and South Korea over women.
• The deal has generated opposition over reports that Japan stipulated the removal of a statue symbolizing the issue of so-called "comfort women" in return for giving 1 billion yen (about $8.3 million) to a fund to help those women.
• According to witnesses, the students held up a banner reading "The South Korean people reject the deal with Japan" near the entrance to the building. Some of them went up the eighth floor where the consular section is located and put up similar banners on walls in shared spaces.
• Earlier in the day, banners with messages such as "Apology and compensation" and "Protect the girl statue" were attached to windows in the building.
• On Wednesday night, protestors began a sit-in near the bronze statue located in front of the site where the Japanese Embassy is being rebuilt.
• In nearby Gwanghwamun Square, a protest gathering was underway Thursday against the agreement, with one banner reading "Scrap the insulting deal of (President) Park Geun Hye."
• The statue of a barefoot girl was erected in 2011 by the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Sexual Slavery by Japan, a civic group helping former comfort women.
• The group has refused calls to get rid of the statue and confirmed their policy of trying to create more comfort women statues in and outside South Korea in a rally Wednesday. (Dec. 31)


No "comfort women" fund until
removal of Seoul statue: Japan
source

• Japan's fund to help comfort women will be contingent on removal of a statue of protest in Seoul, a Japanese government source said Wednesday, a development that could overshadow a recent deal to settle the issue.
• Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set the condition, the source said, amid looming opposition by some in Japan to a plan to release the public funds to help the women, euphemistically called "comfort women" in Japan, with the statue of a girl remaining in place.
• Some of the former comfort women were from the Korean Peninsula which was under Japanese colonial rule before and during World War II.
• The source said the South Korean government recognizes that Japan's disbursement of the money Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said will total 1 billion yen to the new fund is contingent upon the removal of the statue.
• South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se told a group of South Korean reporters Wednesday that Seoul will urge Tokyo to refrain from behaviors "that could cause misunderstanding," in an apparent reference to reports on Japan's intention to link the fund with the fate of the statue.
• The removal of the statue was not mentioned as a condition for the Japanese financial aid in a joint announcement released by Kishida and Yun after their talks in Seoul on Monday.
• South Korea said in the announcement that it "will strive to solve this issue in an appropriate manner."
• The statue of a girl was erected in 2011 by the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Sexual Slavery by Japan, a civic group helping former comfort women, on a sidewalk near the embassy.
• The group refused calls to get rid of the statue and confirmed their policy of trying to create more comfort women statues in and outside South Korea in a rally Wednesday.
• Abe's Facebook page has been flooded with protest messages from people who were dissatisfied with the bilateral agreement. Some branded the agreement "a diplomatic defeat" while others said they are not going to support his Cabinet.
• Japan and South Korea reached an agreement Monday to help aging former comfort women in South Korea which includes the Japanese plan to offer money to the envisioned fund to be set up by the South Korean government.
• Japan admitted to involvement by the old military in the issue and Abe expressed apology in the agreement.
• Disputes between Tokyo and Seoul over the issue of comfort women have strained bilateral ties and had prevented Abe, who took office in 2012, and President Park Geun Hye, who was inaugurated in 2013, from holding a one-on-one meeting until November. (Dec. 31)

S. Korean group pledges to erect
more 'comfort women' statues

• A South Korean civic group supporting comfort women said Wednesday it plans to start a movement to erect both inside and outside the country statues similar to the one located in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul that Tokyo wants removed.
• The Korean Council for Women Drafted for Sexual Slavery by Japan announced the move as a show of its opposition to Monday's landmark deal between Japan and South Korea aimed at "finally and irreversibly" resolving the longstanding dispute over so-called "comfort women."
• The group made the pledge at its weekly rally in front of the embassy, which saw around 700 people gather to protest and mourn the deaths of nine former comfort women who passed away this year, according to local police.
• The rallies are held every Wednesday, and have been held more than 1,000 times, Yonhap News Agency reported. The event on Wednesday was the first since the agreement between the two nations was struck.
• Under the agreement, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said his government will give 1 billion yen (about $8.3 million) to a fund to help those women who suffered.
• While the agreement has drawn criticism from the victims and others over Tokyo's refusal to accept formal legal responsibility, many in particular object to the South Korean government's agreement to "make efforts" toward removing the statue.
• South Korea's Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday quoted a South Korean official as denying Japanese news reports that Seoul agreed to relocate the statue.
• "Japan made no such demand during the negotiations," the official told Yonhap on condition of anonymity.
• Nevertheless, observers have noted that Japan would find it difficult to implement the deal if the South Korean government fails to convince the council to remove the statue.
• Ever since the bronze statue of a young woman clad in traditional Korean costume symbolizing the victims was erected in December 2011, Japan has called for its removal.
• The civic group behind the statue said there are 27 similar monuments in South Korea, with a further three outside the country. (Dec. 30)

"Comfort women" deal should not be "final resolution:" group

• The Japan-South Korea agreement to settle the issue of "comfort women" should not be considered a final resolution as it was concluded without consulting with the victims, a support group for the women said in a statement issued recently.
• "The bilateral talks were held in the absence of the victims. As a result, there still remains a lot of work to do to make it a 'final resolution,'" the Japan Action for Resolution of the "Comfort Women" Issue said.
• The statement was issued after the two countries struck a deal on Monday in Seoul to "finally and irreversibly" resolve the longstanding dispute over comfort women.
• Under the accord announced by Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung Se, Japan will contribute 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) to a new South Korean fund to support the former comfort women and acknowledges responsibility for their suffering.
• The group said in the statement the agreement does not refer to measures on how to teach wartime history involving the victims at schools and how to hand down their memories to later generations.
• "The two countries, without touching on these points, agreed to refrain from accusing or criticizing each other over the issue in the international community," it said. "This means they do not recognize the comfort women issue as one regarding women's human rights."
• On a statue of a girl symbolizing the victims located in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, Yun said South Korea "acknowledges" Japan's concern about it and that it will "make efforts" toward removing it.
• The group, however, attacked these remarks, saying, "Such an audacious agreement means to utter blasphemies against the victims."
• The group urged Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to officially offer an apology himself so the victims can accept it.
• It also said the Japanese government needs to cover the comfort women issue in the school curriculum while conducting further research on the issue to search for the truth so the victims can be rehabilitated.
• The same measures should be applied to other victims in the Asia-Pacific region by acknowledging the state's responsibility, it added. (Dec. 30)


Korean-American group
suspends activities related to
"comfort women"

• A New York-based Korean-American group said Tuesday it has decided to suspend political activities related to comfort women following a recent agreement reached by Tokyo and Seoul aimed at settling the long-standing diplomatic row.
• David Lee, president of the Korean American Public Affairs Committee, told Kyodo News by telephone that he was "glad" to hear of the agreement struck Monday in which Japan admitted to its military's involvement in the matter and offered to provide 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) for a new South Korean fund to be set up to support aging former comfort women.
• It is time to start "hugging together and working together," Lee said. The group will try to help South Korea and Japan "build a good friendship" through cultural exchange programs, he said.
• Lee's group was involved in various activities to commemorate the comfort women, including a monument erected in a park in Nassau County, New York, in 2012.
• The Korean American Forum of California, which led a project to set up a comfort woman statue in Glendale, has criticized the latest agreement between Tokyo and Seoul.
• In Washington, a State Department spokesman called on groups working on the issue in the United States to support the bilateral agreement and its full implementation.
• "The support of civil society for this settlement will be crucial to its success in the end," spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Tuesday.
• The U.S. government has welcomed the reconciliatory move between Japan and South Korea on the issue and urged the international community to support it. (Dec. 29)


U.S. urges support for Japan-
S. Korea deal on "comfort
women" issue

• The United States hailed an agreement Monday reached by Japan and South Korea on the long-standing issue of Korean comfort women calling on the international community to back it.
• "We support this agreement and its full implementation," National Security Adviser Susan Rice said in a statement released on the Tokyo-Seoul agreement to settle the so-called "comfort women" issue.
• "The United States applauds the leaders of the ROK (South Korea) and Japan, two of our most important allies, for having the courage and vision to forge a lasting settlement to this difficult issue," said Rice, top foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama.
• The deal "should be welcomed by the international community," Rice said. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a separate statement, "We call on the international community to support it."
• The United States had been urging Japan and South Korea, its close security allies in East Asia, to settle the comfort women issue. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule before and during World War II.
• In March 2014, Obama even brokered a trilateral summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun Hye on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in The Hague in a bid to encourage the two Asian leaders to resolve their history-related disputes.
• Japan and South Korea reached an agreement Monday in which Japan offered to provide 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) for a new South Korean fund aimed at helping aging former comfort women and admitted to involvement by the Japanese military in the issue.
• U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, meanwhile, said he hopes that the agreement will "contribute to improving the bilateral relationship between the two countries."
• The South Korean chief of the world body urged Tokyo and Seoul to further improve bilateral relations in a future-oriented manner and "based on the recognition of history."
• A senior official of the State Department expressed hope that the agreement will help further cement the trilateral security alliance with the United States so the trilateral alliance can better deal with regional threats posed by North Korea's nuclear programs.
• Speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, the official described the details of the Tokyo-Seoul deal as "important landmarks that remove any ambiguity" about Abe's position on Japan's responsibility for the comfort women issue and apology.
• Abe's government stirred controversy when a panel reviewed the process of compiling a 1993 statement in which then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologized for the comfort women issue admitting to involvement by the Japanese military.
• Abe denied any intention to rewrite the statement itself but Seoul sharply reacted to the move, suspecting the review could potentially see Tokyo trying to gloss over wartime aggression.
• In Monday's agreement, Japan admitted to "an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time."
• In a statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Abe said, "Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war" but stopped short of offering an apology in his own words.
• "Prime Minister Abe expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences," the Japan-South Korea agreement said. (Dec. 28)


Photo taken Dec. 26, 2015, shows
a statue of a girl symbolizing the
issue of "comfort women" in front
of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
It was reported South Korea is
considering relocating it if Tokyo
offers conditions acceptable to
Seoul in talks to settle the long-
standing row.