South Korea and Japan reach historic deal on WW2 'comfort women'

An estimated 200,000 women were forced to become sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during the war

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South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, right, shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida after their joint press conference at Foreign Ministry in Seoul. Image: Ahn Young-joon / AP/Press Association Images

South Korea and Japan have reached a deal to settle a dispute over wartime Korean sex slaves.

AP reports that they have reached a deal which includes an apology from Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and a €7.6 million (1bn yen) fund for the surviving elderly former 'comfort women'.

The agreement follows a meeting between foreign ministers from the two countries - the first talks in three years on the controversial subject.

Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida said the Japanese government "acutely feels its responsibility", and offered an apology from Mr Abe.

The Japanese PM made his apology to the women who "underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds".

The role of the Japanese military was also acknowledged by Mr Kishida.

The issue of the Korean 'comfort women' and their treatment in military brothels during World War 2 has been a huge source of friction between Seoul and Tokyo.

It is estimated that around 200,000 women - many of whom were Korean or from other occupied countries - were forced to provide sexual services to Japanese soldiers during the war. Less than 50 are still alive in South Korea.

Former comfort women Kil Un-ock, front right, and Kim Bock-dong who were forced to serve for the Japanese troops as a sexual slave during World War II, shout slogans during a rally against a visit by Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe to the United States, in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul earlier this year. Image: Ahn Young-joon / AP/Press Association Images

Today's deal may resolve a decades long impasse between the two countries, which has led to many protests in South Korea and other countries in recent years.

BBC reports that the South Korean government will consider the controversy "finally and irreversibly" dealt with if Japan follows through on its promises.

In return, South Korea is expected to make efforts to remove a statue symbolising the 'comfort women' which was erected in 2011 outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul by activists.