After 5 months of review, Korea's foreign ministry released on Wednesday a strongly critical assessment of the controversial 'comfort women' agreement reached in 2015 by the previous administration and Japan.
The special task force in charge of the review said one of its main conclusions was the lack of proper communication between the government and the victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery.
Despite Tokyo agreeing to apologize for the atrocity that saw some 200-thousand women, mostly Korean, forced to serve in military brothels, the victims have been calling for the Japanese government to take legal* responsibility on the matter.
The task force slammed the previous Park Geun-hye administration for treating the agreement as a diplomatic issue, rather than a human rights matter.
"The fact that the universal standard of a victim-centered approach was not sufficiently taken to resolve this human rights issue has caused more pain to the victims, their families and the general public that has been supporting them. And as the foreign minister, I find it regretful and unfortunate, and I bow my head in apology."
The review also confirmed the deal had several details deliberately concealed, including additional details such as not using the phrase "sex slavery", and dealing with civic groups.
Furthermore, the previous administration seems to have secretly agreed to consider how to deal with the issue of memorial statues commemorating the victims, several of which sit outside Japanese embassies and consulates around the world as a sign of protest.
Tokyo responded shortly after Wednesday's announcement, with the Japanese foreign minister protesting that there was nothing wrong with how the agreement was reached on December 28 of 2015, and that both sides at the time had agreed the issue was resolved "finally and irreversibly."
He added that if Seoul keeps changing its stance on the comfort women issue, the bilateral relationship between Korea and Japan would be unmanageable.
Civic groups representing the victims welcomed the results of the review, saying that it was the first step to bring about justice for the victims.
They called for the agreement to be scrapped altogether, and that they look forward to see how the Moon administration will handle the matter in the new year.
However, despite the task force's announcement, Seoul hasn't released what it will do next.
Foreign minister Kang previously said the government will take the task force's review into consideration when formulating a new policy, but she added that the next step will also require more consultation with the victims and related parties.
"The task force's review effectively allows room for the Moon administration to distance themselves from the 2015 agreement. But that now leaves the difficult task of building a new policy with Japan and the victims one that's long lasting and brings some measure of peace to the victims.
Kwon Jang-ho, Arirang News."