Channel NewsAsia

S Korea protests Japan's review of apology to wartime sex slaves

South Korea summoned Japan's ambassador on Monday to protest at Tokyo's recent review of a landmark 1993 apology for wartime sex slavery.

SEOUL: South Korea summoned Japan's ambassador on Monday to protest at Tokyo's recent review of a landmark 1993 apology for wartime sex slavery.

The review upheld the apology, but angered Seoul by asserting there was no evidence to corroborate the testimony of Korean women forced to work in Japanese military brothels -- so-called "comfort women".

"The coercion of comfort women is a historical fact that the international community recognises," Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-Yong told Japanese ambassador Koro Bessho.

"The more the (Japanese) government attempts to undermine the Kono statement, the more its credibility and international reputation will be damaged," Cho said.

Seoul also rejected the review's finding that the 1993 apology -- named after the Chief Cabinet Secretary of the time Yohei Kono -- was partly drafted by South Korea.

Around 200,000 women, mainly from Korea but also from China, Taiwan and Indonesia among others, were forced to work in brothels as "comfort women", serving imperial troops as Japan stormed across Asia before and during World War II.

While mainstream Japanese opinion holds that the wartime government was culpable, a small but vocal tranche of the political right -- including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe -- continues to cast doubt, claiming the brothels were staffed by professional prostitutes.

The equivocation is a huge irritation in Tokyo's relations with East Asia, and with South Korea in particular.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia