A statue of South Korean "comfort women," who served as sex workers for Japanese soldiers during World War II, is seen in front of Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea on February 8, 2017. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, South Korea, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A 2015 agreement to resolve the issue of Japan's wartime sexual slavery of Korean women was brokered secretly by the former Park Geun Hye government to avoid a public backlash, according to a Seoul government task force.
Seoul's foreign ministry on Wednesday announced the results of a months-long review on how the widely criticized pact had been negotiated by the previous Park Geun Hye administration.
The two counties agreed in December 2015 to resolve the sex slavery issue "finally and irreversibly" end to the issue with Tokyo issuing an apology for its wartime atrocities and contributing $8.9 million towards a foundation to support the elderly victims.
However, the deal was hit with widespread criticism from the Korean public, as the negotiations had failed to consult the victims and the reparations were deemed insincere and insufficient.
A task force commissioned with the review confirmed that deal had failed to include the victims during the negotiation process, Chosun Ilbo reported.
It said "the agreement had been finalized mostly based on government views," with the presidential office taking control of all 12 rounds of consultations and eight rounds of high-level talks.
The closed door negotiations had taken place in order to conceal the concessions made on South Korea's part, according to the task force.
During the bilateral talks, Tokyo had asked Seoul to refrain from accommodating civic groups that criticized the deal or showed support for the installation of a statue representing victims of Japan's sexual slavery.
Japan has long complained about the statue of a young girl which sits outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
Copies of the statue have been erected in other contries around the world including the United States, China, Canada and Australia.
Seoul agreed to "persuade" civic groups and also make "appropriate" efforts to resolve issues surrounding the statue, Yonhap reported.
South Korea also conceded to dropping the term "sexual slavery," and using the phrase "comfort women" for victims who served at frontline brothels.
The task force said the foreign ministry had lacked authority during the talks, noting its suggestion to remove the word "irreversible" from the agreement had been ignored by the presidential office.
Seoul has not yet confirmed how it will move forward with the review.
However, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha said the government will heed the findings to develop a "victim-centered approach."
In response to the review, Tokyo's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that there were no problems with the agreement during the negotiation process and that Japan won't accept any requests for change.
It added that attempts to changing the terms could negatively affect bilateral relations between the two countries.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Committee against Torture called on Japan to revise the terms of 2015 agreement to "ensure that the surviving victims of sexual slavery during World War II are provided with redress, including the right to compensation and rehabilitation and the right to truth, reparation and assurances of non-repetitions."
An estimated 200,000 women in Asia were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army before and during the Second World War.