GENEVA/SEOUL (Yonhap) – The top U.N. official on human rights on Wednesday expressed "profound regret" over Japan's failure to resolve the issue of its wartime sexual enslavement of Asian women, warning that the victims' human rights continue to be violated.
Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement that she regrets that "Japan has failed to pursue a comprehensive, impartial and lasting resolution" of the issue of wartime sexual slavery.
She warned that the human rights of the victims continue to be violated decades after the end of World War II.
"This is not an issue relegated to history. It is a current issue, as human rights violations against these women continue to occur as long as their rights to justice and reparation are not realized," she said.
As for Japan's recent review of its 1993 landmark apology called the "Kono Statement," Pillay said that the move "must cause tremendous agony to the women."
Japan's review indicated that the statement was the outcome of political compromise between Seoul and Tokyo at the time. The conclusion has invited strong criticism from South Korea and China.
Pillay also said that "it pains me to see that these courageous women, who have been fighting for their rights, are passing away one by one without their rights restored and without receiving the reparation to which they are entitled."
"I encourage Japan to pursue a comprehensive, impartial and lasting resolution of the wartime sexual issue with the same vigor," she added.
Seoul's foreign ministry welcomed Pillay's statement and urged Japan to take "sincere and responsible actions" to solve the issue by taking recommendations from the U.N.
"The Korean government will continue to cooperate with the international community to resolve the issue of sexual violence in conflict including the issue of the comfort women," Noh Kwang-il, a spokesman at the foreign ministry, said in a statement.