New envoy to Japan vows to ease rough relations

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New envoy to Japan vows to ease rough relations

Korea’s new consul general in Japan said Monday that he will work hard to iron out differences in perceptions among the people of the two countries over Japan’s wartime sexual slavery of Korean women.

Oh Tai-kyu, a former journalist who led the government review of a controversial deal reached in late 2015 on the comfort women issue, will formally take office as consul general in Osaka on April 17.

“As a person who was involved [with the comfort women issue], I will make efforts to narrow the differences in perceptions, in particular, among people in the private sector,” Oh told reporters.

He added that the biggest concern will be to make things move forward through public diplomacy in dealing with the significantly worsened sentiment among the people of the two countries toward each other.

Under the deal reached in December 2015, Korea and Japan agreed to “finally and irreversibly” resolve their long-standing fray over the comfort women issue. Tokyo apologized and pledged 1 billion yen ($9.3 million) to a foundation dedicated to supporting the victims.

The deal, however, prompted strong criticism from victims and civic groups who claim that Japan’s apology was not sincere enough and that the government did not consult with them in advance.

Following its months-long review of the deal, the government earlier this year demanded additional steps from Japan, including a heartfelt apology, aimed at helping the victims heal their wounds and regain dignity.

Japan has called on Korea to faithfully carry out the government-to-government deal.

Oh’s nomination as consul general in Japan raised eyebrows, with some calling into question his ability to serve his duties given his deep involvement in the review process. Oh expressed his understanding of the concerns but emphasized that he will capitalize on all his relevant experience to carry out his duties going forward.

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