South Korean Students Stage Surprise Protest Over Comfort Women Deal

Michael Song, Dec. 31, 2015, 9:39 a.m.


Dozens of college students have been taken to the police station Thursday after holding an unauthorized demonstration near Japan's embassy in Seoul in protest of the two countries' agreement on former sex slaves during World War II, police said. On Monday, Seoul and Tokyo reached the breakthrough deal in which the Japanese government apologized and offered reparations of 1 billion yen (US$8.3 million) to the victims. South Korea agreed to end the dispute once and for all if Japan fully implements the deal.

A total of 30 students were under investigation on charges of staging the surprise rally at the lobby of a building where the members of the embassy's staff have been temporarily relocated for the rebuilding of the original one. They are suspected of chanting and holding banners saying "South Korean citizens are against the deal" or that "Japan should make a legal compensation." Under South Korean law, those wanting to hold a rally should first report to the authorities.

The students, in addition to some 20 others, had stayed up all night in front of the original embassy building under reconstruction since Wednesday after a weekly rally ended, saying they would protect a statue of a girl symbolizing the victims, police said. In announcing the Monday deal, the South Korean government said it would work to address Japan's demands for the statue's relocation through talks with relevant groups.

Civic groups supporting the victims said they will hold a candlelight vigil every evening in front of the statue to prevent it from being moved and to oppose the deal. Only 46 former sex slaves, euphemistically called "comfort women," remain, as many others have died over time. Historians estimate more than 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were forced into sexual slavery at front-line Japanese brothels during World War II.

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