S. Korea to disband ‘comfort women’ foundation

Nov 22, 2018, 09:24 am

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AsiaToday reporter Park Byung-il 

The Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, established as part of a deal made by Tokyo and Seoul in December 2015 to settle the issue of “wartime comfort women”, will be disbanded.

The foundation, which pushed forward handing out consolatory funds for domestic victims of Japan’s wartime sex slavery and their families, has not been functioning properly since five of its board members resigned last December. The disbandment of the foundation has been regarded as a fait accompli as the ‘comfort women’ deal has faced continuous criticism from the victims and the political parties.

The government’s announcement of the foundation shutdown is expected to further sour ties with Tokyo, which suffered a hit following a recent Seoul court ruling in favor of wartime forced labor victims.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced Wednesday that it will carry out a legal process to disband the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation. The government had announced on January 9 that it would set up plans to deal with the foundation by listening to opinions of the victims, relevant organizations and people. As a result, the Gender Ministry has been gathering extensive opinions on the matter and discussing it with related agencies, along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

The Gender Ministry plans to institute legal proceedings such as holding hearings. Following the hearings, the license of the foundation will be revoked on the authority of the gender minister, and a representative for the process will be selected. The ministry expects the process could take up to a year to be completed. 

As for the remaining 5.78 billion won ($5.1 million) from the Japanese fund, the government plans to come up with a reasonable way to spend it along with the 10.3 billion won it had budgeted to add itself, after hearing the opinions of the victims and related organizations. 

With the Gender Ministry’s decision to shut down the foundation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to take diplomatic measures on the matter, such as consulting with the Japanese government and returning the 1 billion yen contribution to Japan. 

Meanwhile, the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation was established in July 2016. The foundation was funded by with 1 billion yen ($8.8 million) offered by Japan. About 4.4 billion won ($3.9 million) has been handed out to 34 surviving victims and relatives of 58 deceased victims. 

However, when the Moon Jae-in administration was inaugurated in May 2017, it decided to reexamine the comfort women deal and replenish the 1-billion-yen fund with its own budget, and allocated 10.3 billion won ($9 million) to replace the Japanese fund. Above all, the foundation has been working properly since all the private board members quit the foundation at the end of last year.

The relationship between Seoul and Tokyo is expected to be further strained with the foundation disbandment.

#comfort women foundation #Moon Jae-in #comfort women #wartime #Japan 
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