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S. Korea proposes talks with Japan over wartime sex slaves

SEOUL, Sept. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Thursday proposed holding talks with Japan to discuss the issue of Tokyo's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II, an issue that has long been one of the thorns in relations between the two nations.

The Foreign Ministry called in Nobukatsu Kanehara, Japan's deputy chief of mission in Seoul, earlier in the day and delivered the proposal to the Japanese government, ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae said.

The move comes after the Constitutional Court ruled late last month that it is unconstitutional for Seoul to not take any action over the dispute between the victims, who were forced to serve Japan's military, and Tokyo, which refuses to compensate them.

"We hope to soon hold bilateral consultations with Japan on the issue," Cho said.

Since the Aug. 30 ruling, South Korea has conducted thorough legal and diplomatic reviews of the issue.

The issue of the former sex slaves, euphemistically called "comfort women," is one of the most emotional unresolved issues between South Korea and Japan. The Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony from 1910-45.

According to historians, up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were coerced into sexual servitude at front-line Japanese brothels during World War II.

Japan has acknowledged its wartime military used sex slaves, but refuses to directly compensate or apologize to victims individually, maintaining that all claims were settled with South Korea by the postwar Treaty of Basic Relations with South Korea in 1965.

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