Park urges quick resolution to historical dispute

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Park urges quick resolution to historical dispute

President Park Geun-hye urged “a speedy resolution” to a historical dispute with Japan over the Imperial Japanese Army’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II.

Her statement was relayed via Blue House spokesman Min Kyung-wook on Friday, just a day after Korean lawmakers met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

In response to a question about the Blue House’s reaction to a meeting Thursday involving a group of bipartisan lawmakers from the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians’ Union and Prime Minister Abe, Min told reporters, “We are of the position that the ‘comfort women’ issue is a human rights issue and - taking into account that the victims are all elderly - wish for a speedy resolution.”

Thousands of Korean women were coerced or abducted into Japanese military brothels, or “comfort stations,” during the 1930s and ’40s to serve as sexual slaves, euphemistically referred to as “comfort women.”

Ruling Saenuri Party Rep. Suh Chung-won relayed to Abe a verbal message from Park looking forward to this year, which marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Korea and Japan, serving as a “new starting point.”

She also expressed her hope that the dignity of Japan’s wartime victims could be fully restored.

“President Park’s hope is that the 55 remaining comfort women victims can fully regain their dignity, and that is what she’s working toward,” Ju Chul-ki, the senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security, said on Thursday.

Abe responded to lawmakers by saying that he felt “heartbreaking pain” over the issue and that he planned to uphold the 1993 Kono Statement, a landmark apology issued by Yohei Kono, the chief cabinet secretary at the time, for the country’s wartime enslavement of hundreds of thousands of young women, many of them Korean.

However, he repeated his position that the comfort women issue should not be linked to foreign affairs and diplomatic issues.

While the Japanese government has verbally said that it stands by the Kono Statement, Seoul remains skeptical about Tokyo’s sincerity due to the lack of progress made in Foreign Ministry talks concerning comfort women and government-backed historical revisionism in school textbooks.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]


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