TOKYO — Japan on Tuesday protested to South Korea after Seoul said it would attempt to have documents relating to the Japanese military’s sexual enslavement of women during World War II listed by UNESCO.
Seoul’s bid was against “the original mission and purpose of the establishment of UNESCO of fostering friendship and mutual understanding among member countries,” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said.
South Korea’s Gender Equality Minister Chung Hyun Back on Monday said that Seoul planned to build a museum for Korean victims of the wartime brothels, Yonhap News agency reported.
She also said that Seoul would ask the U.N.’s cultural heritage body to list the documents relating to what the Japanese military called “comfort women” as a way of speeding up the museum project.
Up to 200,000 women and girls were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II, historians say.
Many of the women were from South Korea, which was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 and 1945, as well as from countries including Taiwan and the Philippines.
“We have strongly conveyed our position to the South Korean government” in the wake of Chung’s comments, Kishida said, adding that the so-called comfort women issue had been “resolved finally and irreversibly” under a 2015 agreement between the two countries.
Under the agreement, Tokyo was required to provide 1 billion yen (US$8.8 million) to a foundation set up by Seoul to support elderly Korean survivors.
However, Japanese and Korean activists say the agreement failed to meet the victims’ demands.