SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea on Thursday launched a foundation planned to be funded by the Japanese government to provide support for South Korean women forced into sexual slavery by Japan’s military in World War II.
The opening of the foundation’s office in Seoul was met by protests from activists and students who criticized a December settlement between South Korea and Japan for the decades-long dispute over South Korean sex slave victims.
One protester was detained after spraying pepper spray at the foundation’s director, Kim Tae-hyun, who had to be treated at a Seoul hospital. Police also dragged away a group of about 20 students who staged a protest during Kim’s news conference at a nearby hotel, according to an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, who didn’t want to be named, citing office rules.
Kim, a university professor, said the foundation would aim to “restore honor and dignity of the victims” and “seek to heal their scars.”
Under the agreement, which was described by both governments as “irreversible,” Japan pledged to contribute 1 billion yen ($9.5 million) for a foundation to help support the victims.
South Korea in exchange vowed to refrain from criticizing Japan over the issue and will try to resolve Japan’s grievance over a statue of a girl representing victims of sexual slavery that sits in front of the Japanese Embassy in downtown Seoul.
The agreement remains controversial in South Korea where many believe the Seoul government settled for far too less.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the Japanese government has yet to transfer the promised funds, but is expected to do so soon.