During World War Two, about 200,000 Asian women were forced to work as ‘comfort women’ – sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in military brothels. Many were Korean, and today Japan has agreed to apologise for its actions and pay compensation of £5.6 million to South Korea.
Japan has accepted ‘deep responsibility’ and the South Korean government says the deal will close the matter. Both countries have agreed to stop criticising each other publicly over the issue, and South Korea says it will look into removing a statue commemorating the women, which activists had put up outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul.
It is not clear whether the women will receive direct payments. The wording of the deal suggests Japan will provide ‘support’ and finance ‘projects for recovering honour and dignity and healing psychological wounds.’
Only 46 of the Korean women are still alive. They have tended to regard earlier apologies from Japan as grudging and insincere and they appear divided on this agreement, with some wanting a direct apology to them as individuals and direct compensation.