S.Korea slams Tokyo envoy’s remark on former sex slaves


South Korea's Foreign Ministry Thursday hit back at a United States-based Japanese consul general's reported attempt to downplay Tokyo's colonial era abuse of sex slaves.

Takashi Shinozuka, stationed in Atlanta, described so-called comfort women as "paid prostitutes" in an interview with the Reporter Newspapers published last week.

As many as 200,000 women in imperial Japan's former colonies -- including the Korean Peninsula -- are estimated to have been forced into sex slavery, serving Japanese soldiers before and during World War II.

There are just dozens of known elderly surviving victims in South Korea today, but efforts have been made within the country and abroad to remember former comfort women with girl statues.

Shinozuka reportedly spoke out about the issue in opposition to a new memorial that is set to be unveiled this Friday by Brookhaven City Council -- the third such statue in the U.S.

''It was a very inappropriate remark inflicting a deep wound to the victims again who went through pain beyond description," Cho June-hyuck, Foreign Ministry spokesman, was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency.

"We delivered a grave stance of our government to Japan through a diplomatic channel," he said. "We strongly demanded such comments that run counter to the comfort women deal be withdrawn and take measures aimed at preventing its recurrence."

Cho's mention of a comfort women deal referred to an agreement Seoul reached at the end of 2015 under which Tokyo promised to compensate South Korean victims.

But criticism of the pact as "insincere" on Japan's part has led to suggestions by the South's new President Moon Jae-in that the deal may have to be renegotiated to better respect the wishes of the women affected.

Tokyo has shown no willingness to discuss the details again, as it even recalled its ambassador to Seoul for several months until earlier this year due to a dispute over a comfort women statue erected in the South Korean port city of Busan.

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