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International relations

Scrapping 'comfort women' fund an option, Moon warns Abe

'Final and irreversible' 2015 deal in danger

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, shakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in before their bilateral summit in New York Tuesday.   © Kyodo

NEW YORK -- South Korea may dissolve a foundation set up to compensate wartime "comfort women," the centerpiece of a controversial 2015 agreement with Japan on the issue.

The Reconciliation and Healing Foundation "is not functioning properly" due to public opposition, and "many people demand" it be disbanded, President Moon Jae-in told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, hinting at the possibility of scrapping the fund.

The Japanese government has already contributed 1 billion yen ($8.86 million) to the foundation, which has compensated many former comfort women. But the South Korean government in July decided to replace the organization with its own fund. The Japanese foundation has suspended giving out compensation.

Seoul has not said what it will do with the remaining money, but some South Koreans are calling for it to be returned to Japan.

Japan and South Korea reached a deal to resolve the comfort women issue "finally and irreversibly" in 2015 under Moon's predecessor Park Geun-hye, who was later ousted for corruption. 

Moon said South Korea will not abandon the agreement or demand a renegotiation. But if the foundation is dissolved, the deal risks becoming a dead letter. The dissolution seems aimed at making it difficult for Japan to claim that the matter has been settled.

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