The National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee on Monday blasted Japan for suggesting the Kono Statement ― a 1993 apology by Japan admitting to Tokyo’s sexual enslavement of thousands of women during World War II ― was a result of a diplomatic bargain between Seoul and Tokyo.
The Foreign Affairs & Unification Committee passed a resolution earlier in the day to “sternly warn” that Japan’s “attempts to deny the (existence of comfort women) must be stopped.” The resolution was passed in the presence of two former comfort women who attended the meeting.
The foreign affairs committee will forward Monday’s resolution to a full session at the National Assembly next month. Lawmakers are expected to endorse the bill with bipartisan support.
A Japanese government panel had reviewed the Kono Statement and reported on June 20 there had been behind-the-scenes dealings between South Korean and Japanese diplomats before the landmark apology was issued, suggesting the statement was a political deal.
The review worsened already fragile relations between Seoul and Tokyo, with South Korea summoning Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho last week.
But the souring of bilateral relations was not all Japan’s fault, according to one opposition lawmaker.
“The fundamental reasons behind (bad relations) with Japan are President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to the Dokdo Islets in 2012 and his remarks about the Japanese emperor,” Rep. Lee Hae-chan of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy said during Monday’s committee meeting.
Rep. Lee was referring to former President Lee’s visit to Korea’s easternmost islets in August 2012. The former president had also said the Japanese emperor should apologize for Koreans killed fighting Imperial Japan, before making any to visit Korea.
Public reaction to President Lee’s 2012 remarks were mixed, with Japan expressing displeasure, and South Koreans both applauding the president’s courage and criticizing what some called a rash move to deflect domestic criticism. The president in August 2012 had been undergoing intense public scrutiny after a series of corruption scandals.
“Diplomacy is interlinked. I don’t think Japan is entirely to blame for the current situation,” Rep. Lee added.
“Japan is the only neighbor President Park has yet to hold a summit with. We need a foreign policy that knows what to say, and what not to say.”
Nine other committees held meetings at the National Assembly on Monday with Parliament’s bipartisan panel investigating the Sewol accident finally beginning hearings of government agencies after weeks of political bickering.
By Jeong Hunny (firstname.lastname@example.org)