South Korea's Moon says Japan needs to apologize to "comfort women"

South Korea's Moon says Japan needs to apologize to

South Korea said Tuesday that it would not undo a 2015 agreement with Japan to shelve a longtime dispute over women who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during World War II.

The Seoul government said that it will also set aside its own money to help the victims heal their wounds and recover their dignity, instead of using the fund that Japan contributed to under the agreement.

"It can not be denied that the 2015 deal was an official agreement reached between the governments of each country, and our government will not demand renegotiation", Kang said in a statement carried by Yonhap News Agency.

"I think the comfort women issue can be completely resolved when Japan accepts the truth, makes a heartfelt apology to the victims, learns lessons and cooperates with the worldwide community (in preventing the recurrence of such a thing)", Moon said.

The deal on the so-called "comfort women" should not have been struck without the involvement of the victims, Moon told a New Year press conference. But Seoul will not use the 1 billion yen (US$8.9 million) relief fund that Japan paid under the 2015 deal, the government said, declaring that the sex slavery issue remains unresolved. Some call for renegotiating or even scrapping the deal.

Japan says the matter of compensation for the women was settled under a 1965 treaty.

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But the government's decision, which appears to have been made mindful of the impact that withdrawal from the accord could have on Korea-Japan relations as well as its diplomatic credibility, drew protests from both Japan and victims of Japan's sexual enslavement.

The Japanese government denies it is directly responsible, insisting that "comfort women" were recruited by civilians.

Since the South Korean Foreign Ministry's January 9 announcement not to pursue renegotiation, some of the former comfort women and support groups pushing to scrap the accord have already expressed frustrations over Seoul's new policy. South Korea in turn pledged to not criticize Japan over the issue.

Yoshihide Suga, the top Japanese government spokesman and the Chief Cabinet Secretary, said on Wednesday: "Japan can never accept it if the South Korean side demands we take further measures despite the agreement that confirmed the final and irreversible solution on the issue". He earlier warned against any attempt to revise the deal, saying it could make their bilateral relations "unmanageable".

"The most important point would be how South Korea will handle the 1 billion (yen) fund from Japan", the former chairman said in a forecast of Seoul's future handling of the issue.

"What the victims consistently want is a voluntary and honest apology".

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