Japan and South Korea Reach Deal on ‘Comfort Women’

December 28, 2015, 3:52 PM UTC
Protestors sit next to a statue (C) of a South Korean teenage girl in traditional costume called the "peace monument" for former "comfort women" who served as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II, during a weekly anti-Japanese demonstration near the Japanese embassy in Seoul on November 11, 2015. South Korean and Japanese officials held their first talks on November 11 since their leaders agreed to seek a speedy resolution in a long-running dispute over Korean women forced into wartime sexual slavery. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Jung Yeon-Je — AFP/Getty Images

South Korea and Japan have agreed to a landmark deal that addresses the long-standing dispute over Korean women who were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued an apology for the atrocities suffered by these individuals, known as “comfort women,” a direct translation of “ianfu,” a Japanese euphemism for prostitutes. The Japanese government also agreed to pay ¥1 billion ($8.3 million) to a foundation established by the South Korean government that offers support to these women, according a joint statement published in The Wall Street Journal.

“The Government of Japan confirms that this issue is resolved finally and irreversibly with this announcement,” according to the statement, which was read by Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at a news conference on Monday in Seoul.

With this agreement, South Korea and Japan are attempting to put behind an issue that has long plagued relations between the two nations. As many as 400,000 women, according to one study, were said to have been sent to military brothels stationed in various Japanese-occupied regions in Asia during World War II.

While “comfort women” consisted of individuals from several countries, including mainland China, the Philippines, and Malaysia, a large portion of them were Korean, according to the BBC. Today, there are said to be around 46 Korean survivors.

In 1994, Japan established an “Asian Women’s Fund” to distribute compensation and a signed apology to the surviving women. However, Korea has demanded an official state redress, as private donors contributed to the bulk of the fund and many women refused to accept the aid, reported The New York Times.