SEOUL – South Korean President Moon Jae In said Wednesday that Japan needs to apologize to “comfort women” forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels, one day after Seoul unveiled its new position on a bilateral deal on the issue.
“Japan should accept the truth, apologize with a sincere heart and take (the comfort women issue) as a lesson and work with the international community in such a way that (such things) could not occur again,” he said during a televised press conference.
South Korea said Tuesday that it will not seek to renegotiate the deal — struck two years ago under the government of then President Park Geun Hye to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the long-standing issue — but wants Japan to do more to settle it.
While saying it is “undeniable” that the 2015 deal is an official agreement between the two countries, the president said Wednesday the “erroneous knot” with Japan over the comfort women issue must be untied.
But Moon also said South Korea will try to separate historical issues from efforts to develop future-oriented cooperation with Tokyo. “It’s very important to maintain good relations with Japan,” he said.
He said his government would continue taking measures to heal the psychological wounds of the victims so as to restore their honor and dignity.
In Tokyo, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga rejected Moon’s call for Tokyo to do more to settle the comfort women issue, saying Tokyo “cannot accept at all” such a demand by South Korea.
Given that both countries had agreed to settle the issue “finally and irreversibly” in December 2015, Suga said the two countries are supposed to steadily implement that deal.
Under the deal, Japan provided 1 billion yen ($8.8 million) to a South Korean foundation set up to support Korean victims.
With some of the victims calling for the money to be returned, South Korea said Tuesday it will set up its own fund of an equal amount and negotiate with Tokyo on what to do with the Japanese contribution.