South Korea’s foreign minister-nominee, Kang Kyung Wha, said Wednesday she will seek talks with Japan to reevaluate a controversial deal struck in 2015 over the issue of Korean “comfort women” forced to work in wartime Japanese military brothels.
In a parliamentary confirmation hearing, Kang said past history should be looked at squarely and should not become an obstacle in bilateral relations.
“I will try to gather wisdom from the victims’ perspective and continue talks with Japan so that sincere measures will be taken,” said Kang, who was special adviser on policy for the U.N. secretary general and has previously worked in South Korea’s Foreign Ministry.
Kang also said she would try to forge substantive cooperation with Japan in such fields as diplomacy, security, economy and culture.
When asked later in the hearing about the “sincere measures,” she said they “should be able to make the victims feel like accepting them with their hearts.”
She added that the agreement with Japan “has not yet reached that place yet.”
“The comfort women issue is an issue of the violation of human rights and thus it should be solved in a way acceptable to the victims,” she said.
Japan and South Korea struck the landmark deal in December 2015 to “finally and irreversibly” resolve their long-standing comfort women row.
In accordance with the agreement, Tokyo last year disbursed 1 billion yen ($8.9 million) to a South Korean fund providing support for former comfort women and their families.
South Korea’s new president Moon Jae In, who took office on May 10, repeatedly pledged during his election campaign to renegotiate the agreement that was reached under his predecessor Park Geun Hye.
Moon named Kang to head the Foreign Ministry last month. If confirmed for the post, she will be the country’s first female foreign minister.
Under South Korean law, parliamentary endorsement is not mandatory for the foreign ministerial post.