The South Korean parliament passed a bill declaring August 14 as the day to commemorate Korean women who were forced into sexual enslavement by the Japanese military during World War II.
Of the 213 members present in the National Assembly, 205 voted in favor of the bill on Friday; the rest abstained.
The bill selected August 14, as it marks the day when Kim Hak-soon became the first victim to testify in 1991. She was praised for her bravery, as few dared to speak out at the time.
It also includes a clause to provide funeral service expenses for poor victims, the Korea JoongAng Daily noted.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Japan remains in disapproval. According to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government lodged a fresh protest after the bill’s passage, The Japan Times reported.
Suga said that the bill gave him “an extremely strong sense of discomfort” and asserted that Tokyo is “concerned that it could throw cold water (on ties) at a time when both Japan and South Korea are making efforts to develop a future-oriented relationship.”
Japan has voiced its protest since South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced in July that the memorial day will be set next year. Moon has been looking into the comfort women issue since he assumed position a month prior.
Tokyo argues that such plan would go against a bilateral deal it struck with Seoul in December 2015, which aimed to resolve the issue “finally and irreversibly”.
But Seoul has been reviewing the legitimacy of such deal, claiming that the nation cannot “emotionally” accept it. Some argued that it was struck without consulting the victims.
As many as 200,000 Korean women were forced into brothels during the war; as of November 13, 2017, 33 of them are still alive. Chinese women also became sex slaves of the Japanese military.