Relations between Korea and Japan are plunging further after the Shinzo Abe administration on Friday unveiled a report undercutting its watershed 1993 apology for its mobilization of Korean women to frontline brothels in World War II.
A five-member panel consisting of legal, women's rights and media experts has been "reexamining the background" of the Kono Statement since late February, headed by former Prosecutor-General Keiichi Tadaki.
Seoul's Foreign Ministry expressed "deep regret" that Tokyo had pressed ahead with the review while pledging to uphold the statement, calling it "contradictory, meaningless and unnecessary."
The 25-page paper, submitted to a lower house committee earlier in the day, concluded that the two countries "consulted on the language during the drafting process" and agreed not to make the fact public.
Tokyo, for instance, initially inserted a sentence that the so-called comfort women were recruited by contractors who received military authorities' "intent," which was ultimately replaced by "request" in line with Seoul's suggestion.
The report also said no follow-up survey took place to verify the testimonies of 16 victims which laid the groundwork for the landmark statement.
The event came amid widespread concerns that the hawkish premier would attempt to negate the apology that brought a thaw in the two former foes' checkered relations.
Yet Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said his administration stands by the apology, reiterating that historical research and assessment including on the comfort women issue was "the job of experts."