December 31, 2016 3:15 am JST

South Koreans still firmly oppose 'comfort women' deal

A weakened government unable to enforce the accord

KENICHI YAMADA, Nikkei staff writer

SEOUL -- A memorial for wartime "comfort women" installed Friday in front of the Japanese Consulate in Busan reflects the persistent, strong opposition within the South Korean public to the December 2015 accord aimed at "finally and irreversibly" resolving the issue.

A Realmeter poll released Thursday found that 59% of respondents thought the deal should be scrapped, while just 25.5% wanted to keep it. Many in South Korea think President Park Geun-hye forced the deal through without heeding public opinion. The deal included a payment of 1 billion yen ($8.57 million at current rates) by Japan, though Tokyo has sought the removal of a similar memorial from outside the country's embassy in Seoul.

The National Assembly passed a motion to impeach Park on Dec. 9, suspending her from office. Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se expressed hope Thursday that opponents of the comfort women accord eventually would accept the deal. But the Park government no longer has the power to stop the political opposition.

Liberal lawmakers seen as potential candidates in the next presidential race have recently begun opposing the deal or calling for its renegotiation. Some observers expect public pressure to revisit the accord will only grow as the country heads into the election.

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