Park brings up ‘comfort women’ issue in meeting with Japan

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Park brings up ‘comfort women’ issue in meeting with Japan


President Park Geun-hye expressed hope during a meeting with Japanese lawmakers yesterday that their government will take measures to restore the honor of surviving women sexually enslaved by the nation’s military before and during World War II.

She added that solving the longstanding issue will be the first step in forging new bilateral relations between Korea and Japan.

“The surviving victims [of sexual slavery] are very elderly now. I am hoping for measures [by the Japanese government] that will restore their honor,” said the president during her meeting with members of the Alliance of Korea-Japan Lawmakers at the Blue House yesterday afternoon.

Fukushiro Nukaga, the former finance minister and opposition Liberal Democratic Party member, headed the delegation of Japanese Diet members; Rep. Suh Chung-won, a longtime aide of Park, led the association of Korean lawmakers.

During the meeting, Park also called on Japanese politicians to refrain from actions that hurt the elderly “comfort women” - a term used to euphemistically refer to sexual slaves mobilized by Japan for use in its Imperial Army - and the Korean people. She added that this restraint is vital to “nurture mutual trust and improve the bilateral relationship.”

Korea-Japan ties have been shaky in recent years, in part because of the comfort women issue coupled with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nationalist views on Japan’s modern history, including its 36-year colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

As if to make her stance clear on the historical issue that often puts Seoul and Tokyo at odds, Park continued, “If we treat the issues and problems [associated with history] without careful consideration, an aggravated conflict will soon return in a cycle. We need to set the matters straight during our times.”

Park’s remarks were considered a retaliation to a series of nationalist moves and rhetoric expressed by Japanese leaders, including Abe. The conservative leader has denied that the Imperial Japanese Army forcibly recruited Korean women and girls for use as sexual slaves, calling the accusation “groundless slander” at the National Diet on Oct. 3.

Much to the dismay of officials in Seoul and Beijing, three female members of Abe’s cabinet paid respects at Yasukuni Shrine, which honors those who died during World War II, including 14 Class-A war criminals.

Yesterday’s meeting raised expectations of a possible summit between Park and Abe, which will mark the first meeting between the two since Korea’s president took office last February and could thaw soured relations.


BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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