U.N. panel calls for revising Japan-S. Korea ‘comfort women’ deal


GENEVA — The U.N. Committee against Torture called on Japan and South Korea to revise their 2015 deal to settle the long-standing row over women who were forced into wartime Japanese military brothels.

The agreement should be modified to “ensure that the surviving victims of sexual slavery during World War II are provided with redress, including the right to compensation and rehabilitation and the right to truth, reparation and assurances of non-repetitions,” the committee said in a report.

Although not legally binding, the recommendation could prompt the administration of new South Korean President Moon Jae In to demand renegotiations on the deal with Japan.

But Japan has no obligation to comply with the recommendation, making it difficult for any such renegotiations to take place.
Japan and South Korea struck a landmark deal in December 2015 to “finally and irreversibly” resolve a protracted dispute over the issue of so-called “comfort women.”

Tokyo disbursed 1 billion yen ($8.9 million) last year to a South Korean fund to help former “comfort women” and their families in line with the terms of the deal.

In his phone talks with Moon on May 11, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attached importance to implementing the accord.

But Moon replied it is “a reality that most of the South Korean people are emotionally unable to accept (the deal).”

The Committee against Torture was established in 1988 in line with the 1984 U.N. Convention against Torture, which bans police and government organizations of states that are party to the convention from acts or torture and other inhuman treatment. Japan became party to the pact in 1999.

The committee evaluates member countries’ compliance on a regular basis and issues recommendations if problems are found.

In May 2013, the U.N. human rights panel urged the Japanese government to “refute attempts to deny the facts by the government authorities and public figures and to re-traumatize the victims through such denials.”

The document was issued after then Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said that “comfort women” were necessary to maintain discipline in the Japanese military, sparking anger including in South Korea.

But the government refused to comply with the recommendation, issuing a written statement saying the recommendation “does not oblige member countries to comply” and having the statement approved at a Cabinet meeting the following month.

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