Japan to counter S. Korean criticism at U.N. over wartime brothels

The government said Thursday Japan will counter South Korea's criticism at the United Nations over Tokyo's move to examine the testimonies of former Korean sex slaves forced to work at Japanese military brothels during World War II.

Tokyo also said compensation over the wartime sex slavery has been already settled under a 1965 accord between Japan and South Korea, apparently rejecting a call from a senior U.S. diplomat for the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to deal with the issue appropriately.

U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Sung Kim said in Seoul earlier in the day that the sexual enslavement was "a grave human rights violation."

"Japan will explain its position at the council and counter" the South Korean argument later Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference in reference to South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se's statement Wednesday at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Yun criticized the Japanese government for its recent move to thoroughly check the testimonies of some Korean comfort women, saying, "This is an added insult to the honor and dignity of the victims."

Based on the testimonies, Tokyo issued an apology over the issue in 1993. The move to screen the testimonies came after a former senior Japanese official admitted before parliament last month that the government at the time did not verify the victims' remarks.

Suga said Abe does not make light of the fact that the Japanese actions caused immeasurable pain to the Korean women, as recognized by previous governments.

The spokesman said later in the day that Japan set up a government-linked fund in 1995 to pay atonement money to each victim. "We have gone through the issue while consulting with the South Korean government," Suga said. "We will explain our position with patience."