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No mention of ‘comfort women,’ Dokdo at summit: minister

March 21, 2023 - 18:22 By Kim Arin
The Democratic Party of Korea lawmakers speak at the plenary session of the National Assembly foreign affairs committee on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The issues of “comfort women” -- South Korean women and girls who were forced into Japanese military brothels -- and the disputed islets of Dokdo were not discussed at President Yoon Suk Yeol’s talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, South Korea’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

Speaking at the National Assembly foreign affairs committee’s plenary session, Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Jin reiterated that there was no mention of “comfort women” or Dokdo at the summit, refuting earlier news reports.

The main agenda items were the resolution of wartime forced labor by Japan and cooperation in security and economic sectors, he said.

The Yoon administration plan to compensate forced labor victims through a locally funded foundation, as opposed to direct compensation from the responsible Japanese companies, is prompting backlash from the political opposition after the summit.

At the Tuesday session, opposition Democratic Party of Korea lawmakers blasted the summit as “humiliating” and a “diplomatic defeat,” arguing that Japan did not reciprocate the major concessions made by Korea.

Democratic Party Rep. Kim Sang-hee, who once served as the deputy speaker of the Assembly, demanded that the foreign minister resign over the summit in Japan.

“Japan refused to recognize South Koreans were forcibly mobilized, and there was no apology at all,” she said. “As the minister in charge of this diplomatic crisis, Park needs to step down.”

Another Democratic Party Rep. Cho Jeong-sik, citing news reports, pointed out that Yoon’s approval ratings have dropped following the summit while Kishida’s have risen.

“These ratings show that the summit was a humiliation for Korea while a victory for Japan,” he said. “You say that a lot has been achieved at the summit, but Korean people clearly don’t think so.”

The minister in response said that allies, most notably the US, have welcomed the outcomes of the summit in Tokyo.