South Korea called on Japan Friday to stop any attempts to whitewash its sexual enslavement of South Korean women during World War II after a Tokyo official suggested a plan to withdraw the country's previous apology for the atrocity.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga indicated in a parliamentary meeting on Thursday a plan to re-examine South Korean victims' previous testimony used to draw up the so-called Kono statement.
The statement was issued in 1993 by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono to acknowledge and apologize for Japan's forceful recruitment of South Korean women along with females from other countries for sexual slaves for Japanese soldiers.
"Our government cannot accept Japan's attempt to question the forcible recruitment and management of comfort women even after the country acknowledged it in the past," said an official at the foreign ministry.
Comfort women is a euphemism referring to the women forced to work at front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers.
In the Kono statement, Japan admitted to the Japanese military's responsibility for establishing and maintaining the comfort women system as well as the coercion and deceit used in employing the women while also expressing apology and repentance for it, the official noted.
"The chief cabinet secretary's remarks on the verification plan seem nothing but an attempt to disavow the Kono statement and reverse the path of history," the official said, calling on Japan to stop such "thoughtless actions."
The plan, if carried out, would debase the proper perception of history, which has been the base of South Korea-Japan relations, he said.
Such an angry reaction from Seoul came amid severely frayed ties between the neighbors.
In a nationalist move to whitewash its history of war aggression and atrocities, and restrengthen its military capacities, strictly limited by a peace constitution written after WWII, the right-wing Shinzo Abe administration has repeatedly attempted to downplay Japan's wartime history while renewing claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.
Prime Minister Abe's respect-paying visit to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine, which honors WWII criminals along with other Japanese war dead, inflamed public sentiment in South Korea, further souring bilateral relations.
South Korea is one of the key victims of Japan's early 20th-century imperialism, having suffered as a Japanese colony for 36 years. The countries established their diplomatic ties in 1965 after forging a South Korea-Japan treaty. (Yonhap News)