Moon Invites Victims of Japanese Wartime Sex Slavery

South Korean former comfort women Kim Bok Dong and Gil Won Ok, who were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese troops during World War II sit under a yellow umbrella during a press conference outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul on June 23

President Moon Jae-in and first lady Kim Jung-sook usher an elderly woman, who in her youth was forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II, into the dining room of the Blue House, on Thursday.

South Korean President Moon Jae In met Thursday with eight women who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels, days after he said an existing deal with Japan can not resolve the thorny diplomatic issue.

Moon wanted to gauge the women's reaction to his government's position on the deal, the Blue House said.

Before the meeting, Moon visited Kim Bok Dong, a 91-year-old former comfort woman, at a hospital in Seoul.

The deal, however, prompted strong criticism from victims and civic groups who claim that Japan's apology was not honest enough and that the government did not consult with them in advance.

He went on: "We can not deny the fact that the agreement was an official one".

In December, after completing a monthslong review of the 2015 deal on the so-called comfort women issue, a foreign ministry task force concluded that there were procedural problems and that insufficient efforts were made to gather opinions from the aged victims and civic groups.

Under the agreement, which both sides called a "final and irreversible resolution", Japan issued an apology and promised 1 billion yen ($8.8 million) for programs to assist victims.

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The meeting appears to have been meant to inform the Moon government's new position on the 2015 accord, expected to be finalized later this month.

After listening to Moon, the former comfort women asked him to repeal the agreement, and demanded an official apology and damage compensation from the Japanese government.

The deal included a Japanese government apology and a multimillion-dollar fund for the victims.

Heads of civic organizations active on the issue including the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan and the House of Sharing - home to numerous survivors - as well as Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Gender Equality Minister Chung Hyun-back took part in the meeting.

In Tokyo, the government insists the comfort women issue is now closed.

In a radio program aired January 4, Kang said, "We need to manage our relations with Japan (properly) as it is our important neighbor".

Moon's January 4 apology to the former comfort women triggered an immediate protest from the Japanese government, which contacted the government in Seoul the same day through the Japanese Embassy there. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, before it was divided into North Korea and South Korea later. According to historians, Japan forced tens of thousands of Asian women, mainly from Korea, to work in front-line brothels.

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