December 28, 2017 13:28
A controversial deal struck by the Park Geun-hye administration with Japan on the indirect compensation of Korean wartime sex slaves was wrapped up in secret concessions from Seoul, a report published Wednesday shows.
The report written by a Foreign Ministry task force says that the deal signed in December 2015 came with an "undisclosed agreement" about Seoul's promise not to support statutes and other memorials honoring the victims.
It also promised Tokyo not to use the term "sex slaves" for the women but call them "Japanese military comfort women victims," which obscures the nature of their ordeal.
The Park government also failed to immediately inform the victims that the deal was "final" and "irreversible" when it tried to persuade them to accept it, according to the report.
The report puts the new government in a bind, with Tokyo warning that relations will become "unmanageable" if Seoul were to seek a change in the deal.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said, "We're going to gather opinions from civic groups and experts based on the report." A senior presidential official told reporters, "We'll listen carefully to people from all walks of life and also take possible effects on the Seoul-Tokyo relations into consideration."
On the campaign trail, President Moon Jae-in called for abrogating and renegotiating the deal, which lets Japan off without taking full responsibility in return for indirect compensation to the victims.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, who is visiting the Middle East, in a statement said, "The deal was reached by the leaders of the two countries who were elected democratically. If the Korean government wants to seek a change in the deal that is already being implemented, based on its report, bilateral relations will become unmanageable. We can never accept it."
During a meeting in Germany in July, Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to revive shuttle diplomacy while pledging to "overcome the dark past history" without commenting directly on the deal, which is deeply unpopular in Korea.
Even Korea's disclosed pledge to remove statutes honoring the victims from the vicinity of Japanese missions has proved impossible to fulfill as they sit on municipal land over which the central government has no control and were funded with private donations.
The publication of the report casts doubt on Moon's planned visit to Tokyo next month.
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