President Park Geun-hye on Friday had a rare meeting with Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe at Cheong Wa Dae amid strained diplomatic ties between the two countries on account of territorial and historical feuds.
During the meeting, Masuzoe delivered a message by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would make efforts to improve the relations between the two countries.
The governor told Park that Abe had stressed the importance of building future-oriented bilateral ties in a recent meeting before he left for Seoul. The Japanese prime minister also requested that Masuzoe inform the South Korean president that he would “make efforts for the improvement of Korea-Japan ties.”
|President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe at Cheong Wa Dae on Friday. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)|
Masuzoe was the first Japanese politician the South Korean president has met since taking office in February last year. The Japanese mayor had wanted to pay a courtesy call to Park during his visit to Seoul this week, officials said.
The diplomatic relationship between Korea and Japan was further strained after Japan’s review of the Kono Statement last month concluded that it was the product of extensive negotiations between Seoul and Tokyo. The move was seen as an attempt by Japan to undermine its past apologies.
The 1994 statement acknowledges and apologizes for Japan’s sexual enslavement of women during World War II. But some right-wing politicians, led by Prime Minister Abe, deny that the comfort woman system involved coercion.
Park highlighted that the relationship between Korea and Japan has worsened recently, particularly due to inappropriate remarks by politicians.
“Politicians’ improper speeches have added difficulties in bilateral relations, especially on historical issues,” Park told Masuzoe.
Park also urged Japan to resolve the issue of its wartime sexual enslavement of Asian women through “sincere efforts.”
“The issue of military comfort women is not only a bilateral one but also a universal issue related to women’s human rights,” said Park.
“I am expecting to see the issue get resolved through (Japan’s) sincere efforts,” she added.
The meeting came a day after the U.N.’s human rights panel urged Japan to accept the criticism for forcing women into sexual slavery and to concede to the international demand for an independent probe into the issue.
“We want Japan to make the kind of statement that the families, the women themselves, the few who are still surviving, can recognize as an unambiguous, uninhibited acceptance of total responsibility,” said Nigel Rodley, head of the U.N. Human Rights Committee.
Around 200,000 women, mostly Koreans but also Chinese, Indonesians and others, are believed to have been forced to provide sex to Japanese troops in frontline brothels during World War II. Of the 237 Korean women who came forward by revealing their past as sex slaves, only 54 are still alive.
The human rights panel also called on Japan to ban all activities that advocate racial superiority and hatred.
In the report, the panel said it is concerned about “the widespread racist discourse” in Japan, including hate speeches against minority groups, such as Koreans.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)