Asia

Leaders of South Korea and Japan meet to resolve dispute

South Korean President Moon Jae-in walks past Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Bangkok, Thailand, November 4, 2019 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Moon Jae-in (left) met Shinzo Abe in Bangkok

The leaders of South Korea and Japan have had talks for the first time in over a year in an attempt to resolve a long-running dispute.

President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe briefly met at the Asean summit of Asian nations in Bangkok, Thailand.

A bitter row over wartime compensation escalated recently.

In August, Japan removed South Korea from its list of trusted trade partners.

Immediately, South Korea retaliated by ending its intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.

At the heart of the dispute are the "comfort women" of Japan. Tens of thousands of Korean women - some say as many as 200,000 - were forced to work in brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War Two.

South Koreans want reparations but Japan considers the issue settled. It has apologised or acknowledged its responsibility for wartime sex slaves before - most recently in 2015 when the country also promised to set up a 1bn yen ($9.5m, £7.9m) fund to assist the victims.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A statue of a girl symbolising "comfort women" was placed in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul

It has however resisted giving greater compensation, arguing that the dispute was settled in 1965 when diplomatic ties were normalised between the two countries and more than $800m in economic aid and loans was given to South Korea.

But critics argue the victims were never consulted. A dozen surviving "comfort women" demand a direct apology and compensation from the Japanese government.

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Media captionThe surviving comfort women are now in their late 80s and 90s, as Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports

South Korea's presidential spokeswoman said on Monday that both countries wanted to end the dispute through dialogue.

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