Photo/IllutrationSouth Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha speaks during a briefing on the 2015 South Korea-Japan agreement over South Korea's "comfort women" issue at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on Jan. 9. (Pool Photo via AP)

SEOUL--South Korea said Jan. 9 it will not seek renegotiation of the 2015 landmark agreement on the issue of former “comfort women,” but expressed hope that Tokyo will make efforts to help restore the dignity of victims.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha also said the South Korean government will provide 1 billion yen ($8.86 million) to match the contribution Japan has made to a foundation in Seoul under the deal.

She said Seoul will talk with Japan about what to do with Japan’s contribution to the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, which was established in 2016 to implement programs to help the former comfort women, who were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers before and during World War II. Many of them come from the Korean Peninsula.

Kang said there is no denying that the agreement was formal.

But she said Seoul hopes that Japan will admit historical facts on its own in accordance with international standards and continue with efforts to help restore the honor and dignity of the victims and heal their wounds.

The victims, she said, are all hoping that they will receive spontaneous and heartfelt apology for their suffering.

Tokyo and Seoul reached the agreement to resolve the long-standing issue of comfort women “finally and irreversibly” in December three years ago.

The deal was struck under President Park Geun-hye, the predecessor of President Moon Jae-in, but it has been unpopular among the South Korean public as it is perceived by many as unfavorable to South Korea.

Moon apologized to the victims when he met with them on Jan. 4, saying the accord deviates from the principles of truth and justice.

But calls were growing within the South Korean government to maintain the formal agreement to prevent bilateral ties from becoming further strained.

The foundation has been in disarray for some time, but it has been paralyzed in recent weeks with the departure of five directors of the remaining eight after a team of experts under Kang assessed the bilateral agreement as insufficient in a report late last month.

"The deal did not reflect the victims’ opinions," the report said.

Statistics released by South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family on Dec. 27 showed that there are 47 surviving victims, while 199 former comfort women had passed away.

The total spending out of the 1 billion yen payment by that time, including the foundation’s management costs, came to about 4.7 billion won (470 million yen, or $4.2 million).

The foundation had already arranged for 100 million won to be given to each of the survivors, and 20 million won each to relatives of 58 deceased women.

Sources familiar with the issue said the remaining survivors refused to accept the money from the foundation, demanding direct compensation from the Japanese government instead, or for other reasons.