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Japan, South Korea Finally Settle Dispute Over WWII Sex Slaves

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Japan and South Korea reached a settlement Monday on a 70-year-old dispute over Korean sex slaves forced to work at Japan’s wartime brothels.

The issue of compensation for the so-called “comfort women” has long been a road-block for cooperation between the two nations. Japan has pledged to contribute $8.3 million to a fund set up to help the 46 victims who are still alive, hoping it will finally put the issue to rest.

“I feel we’ve fulfilled the responsibility of the generation living now,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, according to The Washington Post. “I’d like this to be a trigger for Japan and South Korea to cooperate and open a new era.”

The countries normalized diplomatic relations in 1965, but South Korea has held a grudge over Japan’s reluctancy to apologize for its treatment of the comfort women, and more importantly, its occupation of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945. Many South Koreans have rejected previous apologies from Japan, asking for Japan to take legal responsibility for the women.

The exact number of comfort women is unknown since most went silent about their experiences. Campaigners claim as many as 200,000 women from several Asian countries were tricked or forced to work at military brothels between 1932 and 1945.

South Korea promised the deal would mark the end of the dispute, and that the agreement is “final and irreversible.”

Some of the comfort women immediately said they would refuse the compensation from Japan, stating they felt ignored in the deal.

“I don’t think comfort women victims were even considered,” Lee Yong-se, an 88-year-old former comfort woman, told reporters.

The U.S. has longed for better relations between its two closest allies in the fight against China’s growing influence in the region and North Korea’s nuclear missiles aspirations.

South Korea and Japan host a combined 80,000 U.S. troops on their territories.

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