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Comfort women' fund to be dissolved in 2007
Updated: 2005-01-25 08:40

A private fund used to compensate Asian women forced into World War II brothels run by the Japanese army will be dissolved in March 2007, officials said Monday.

Chen Jinyu, 79, tells of her four-year painful experience as a comfort woman during World War II on September 18 last year at a Shanghai international symposium about Japanese invasion into Asia. Chen was forced into sex slavery in 1941 when she was 16 years old. [newsphoto]
Tomiichi Murayama, the president of the Asian Women's Fund and former prime minister, said that the fund would finish its projects by then.

The fund — created by the government but independently operated with private donations — has provided a way for Japan to extend aid to former sex slaves without the money coming in the form of official government compensation.

Tokyo refuses to provide official compensation as it claims such issues were dealt with under postwar treaties, and Japanese courts have rejected a number of lawsuits brought by former sex slaves, known as "comfort women."

The fund has so far given US$19,400 each in compensation to 285 women in the Philippines, South Korea and China's Taiwan Province.

They also received medical assistance, said Shinichi Harada, a fund spokesman.

Indonesia was under Dutch colonial rule during World War II, and 79 former comfort women in the Netherlands refused compensation but received assistance for medical and welfare fees, Harada said.

The fund also set up medical and welfare facilities in Indonesia.

Supporters of the former sex slaves were critical, accusing the government of trying to shirk its responsibility in the matter.

"They are trying to put an end to the issue ... without clarifying the government's responsibility for the victims," said Rumiko Nishino, co-chairperson for the Violence Against Women in War-network Japan, a support group for sex slaves.

But Harada defended the fund's activities.

"The fund was a realistic answer to allow the victims to receive something as close to compensation as possible, when they were losing their court cases," Harada said.

Since its establishment in 1995, the fund has raised a total of US$5.4 million mostly through donations.

Historians estimate 200,000 women, mostly from South Korea and the Philippines but also from China, Indonesia and the Netherlands, were pressed into wartime prostitution for millions of Japanese soldiers stationed throughout Asia.

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