By Mari Yamaguchi, AP
TOKYO–Two elderly South Korean women abused by Japan’s wartime military-run brothel system are in Japan to reject a recent settlement agreement between the two governments and demand that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe give them a face-to-face apology and formal compensation.
Lee Ok-sun, 88, and Kang Il-chul, 87, told reporters Tuesday that the agreement neglected the victims’ feelings and was “wrong.”
They are among tens of thousands of Asian women sexually abused in Japan’s military-run brothel system during World War II. Lee and Kang were forcibly sent to China when they were teenagers in the early 1940s and could not return to their homes until decades later.
Lee and Kang said neither government had asked their opinion ahead of the agreement, which they said was a clear sign they were disregarded. They noted that Abe had not directly apologized to them in his own words, and that Japan stated that its pledge in the agreement to set up a fund was not compensation but for humanitarian purposes.
Lee and Kang now live at a private shelter, the House of Sharing, with eight other victims. Of the 238 South Korean women who were formally recognized as victims of Japan’s wartime sex abuse, only 46 are still alive — most of them in their late 80s and 90s.
The director of the shelter, Ahn Shin-kwon, who accompanied the two on their trip, said the group requested a meeting with Abe and other government officials, but that it is unlikely to take place.
“Not only has Abe not apologized but he hasn’t even tried to meet us,” Kang said angrily, sitting next to Lee. Both were in wheelchairs. “Why doesn’t he come out and apologize? We want him to meet us face to face,” she said.