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Politics

Wary South Korean public needs convincing to accept deal

SEOUL -- Six support groups for wartime "comfort women" denounced Monday's agreement by Japan and South Korea to resolve the issue, calling the accord a betrayal.

     Their joint statement faults the agreement for not describing what happened to the women as a crime. The groups referred to the South Korean government's willingness to try to accommodate Japan on relocating a disputed comfort women memorial in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul as a "humiliation." They called Seoul's decision to enter into the agreement by consenting to Tokyo's request "shameful and disappointing."

     The organizations issuing the statement include the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, known for its hard-line stance on the issue, and the House of Sharing, a group home for former comfort women.

     A former comfort woman quoted by the Yonhap News Agency said she and fellow victims wanted "legal compensation" from Japan, not just a handout. Another of the women, Yoo Hee-nam, said she would "follow what has been decided" despite dissatisfaction with the accord, Yonhap reported.

     South Korea's government has welcomed previous Japanese initiatives on resolving the issue, only to turn against them later after pressure from a dissatisfied populace. The hard line Seoul has taken on the issue owes in no small part to sensitivity toward public opinion -- hence President Park Geun-hye's statement to the nation Monday calling for understanding on the agreement.

     Both sides need to strive to make the resolution truly "final." For Seoul, persuading former comfort women and interest groups to live with the deal will provide one of the biggest challenges.

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