Seoul: South Korea said Thursday it will offer each surviving victim of Japan`s wartime sexual enslavement 100 million won (US$89,581) using funds provided by Tokyo, an offer quickly rejected by some of the women.
The plight of the so-called "comfort women" is a hugely emotional issue that has marred relations between Seoul and Japan for decades and which, for many South Koreans, symbolises the abuses of Japan`s 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.
Last December, the two nations reached a "final and irreversible" agreement, under which Tokyo offered an apology and one billion yen ($8.5 million) to open a foundation for the dwindling number of comfort women who are still alive.
With the disbursement of the one billion yen formally authorised by Tokyo during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, South Korea`s foreign ministry said it expects the Seoul-based foundation to receive the money soon.
Ministry spokesman Cho June-Hyuck told reporters Thursday that a part of the money will be used for "individual" financial assistance, providing 100 million won each to the surviving victims and 20 million won for those who have passed away.
"The cash provision is intended to restore the victims` dignity and to heal their wounds," Cho said.
But the offer was rebuffed by some of the women, who have taken issue with Japan`s refusal to accept formal legal responsibility.
"Japan refers to the money as humanitarian assistance and not legal compensation, which is why they won`t take it," said Ahn Shin-Kwon, director of the House of Sharing, which is home to 10 of the ageing victims.
"The government is trying to placate them with money by offering the surviving victims much more than those who have died," Ahn told AFP.
There are currently 40 surviving victims in South Korea, although that number is quickly dwindling as most of the women are in their 90s.
The South Korean government has been under scrutiny by some of the victims and activists since last year`s agreement.
An opening ceremony of the Tokyo-funded foundation in Seoul last month was met with angry protests, with the foundation`s head ending up in hospital after being sprayed with liquid pepper spray.
Mainstream historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea but also other parts of Asia including China, were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II.