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S. Korea mulls talks with Japan over former wartime sex slaves

SEOUL, Aug. 31 — South Korea is considering proposing diplomatic talks with Japan to deal with the issue of compensation for Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japan's soldiers in World War II, a government source said Wednesday.

The move came a day after South Korea's Constitutional Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for the Seoul government to make no specific effort to settle disputes with Tokyo over its refusal to compensate women for their sexual enslavement during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Japan has acknowledged its wartime military used sex slaves, but refuses to directly compensate or apologize to victims individually, maintaining that all claims were settled with South Korea by the postwar Treaty of Basic Relations with South Korea in 1965. Under the pact, South Korea received US$ 800 million in grants and soft loans from Japan.

The issue of the former sex slaves, euphemistically called "comfort women," is one of the most emotional issues that still remains unresolved between South Korea and Japan.

"The government humbly accepts the Constitutional Court's ruling and plans to make diplomatic efforts with the Japanese side in line with the intent of the court's decision," the source said on the condition of anonymity.

Although no final decision has been made yet, the South Korean government is considering holding talks with Japan to raise the issue, the source said.

South Korea is also reviewing the possibility of setting up a joint arbitration panel with Japan, according to the source.

According to historians, up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were coerced into sexual servitude at front-line Japanese brothels during World War II, when the Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony.

Japan's former wartime sexual enslavement is becoming an increasingly urgent priority as most victims are elderly and fear they may die before they receive compensation or an apology from Japan. (PNA/Yonhap)


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