For Japan, the ball is now in South Korea’s court to cement the Dec. 28 landmark agreement on resolving the “comfort women” issue.

Tokyo believes that South Korea has accepted the removal of a controversial statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul as a precondition for Japan providing 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) in government funds for a foundation to help former comfort women.

Several Japanese government sources said that South Korea provided behind-the-scenes confirmation about the precondition.

But when he read out details of the agreement on Dec. 28, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se only said that Seoul “will make efforts to resolve the issue in an appropriate manner by holding discussions with the related organization on what response was possible.”

Japanese government sources said they are well aware that South Korean government officials have much work ahead of them.

The statue of a girl representing the comfort women, a euphemism for women forced to provide sex to Japanese troops before and during World War II, was set up in 2011 by the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a private organization.

The council has shown no signs that it will remove the statue.

“It is unthinkable that the South Korean government would become involved in the moving of the statue,” a council official has said.

South Korean officials had long insisted that they would be unable to do anything about the statue because it had been erected by a private organization.

But in the final stages of negotiations on resolving the comfort women issue, Japanese officials made clear that moving the statue would be necessary if Japan was to put up the 1 billion yen for a foundation to be established by South Korea to provide support to the former comfort women and to pass on the history of what they went through to future generations.

In addition, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had made known to close associates that his conservative supporters would not stand for any agreement on the comfort women issue without the statue being properly dealt with.

Japan’s adamant stance led to the mention of the statue in the agreement read out on Dec. 28 by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Yun.

By HAJIMU TAKEDA/ Staff Writer, Asahi Newspaper