President Park Geun-hye on Monday said that Japan failed to “face up to history,” with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe coming under international fire for not apologizing to Korean women who suffered from sexual enslavement by the Japanese military during the World War II.
“Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been under fire in the United States over his remarks on historic disputes,” Park said. “He lost a chance to build trust with neighboring countries by apologizing on their shared history including Japan’s wartime sex slavery, she said in her first meeting with her top aides since she returned to work after a weeklong absence caused by fatigue from her recent South American tour.
South Korea and Japan have long been at odds over their shared history, including the Japanese military’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II.
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (right) converses with Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo during a parliamentary committee session on Monday. (Yonhap)
Her criticism came days after Abe failed to apologize for Japan’s wartime sex slavery in a speech to the U.S. Congress last week.
Abe’s comments, that Japan’s wartime actions brought suffering to Asian people, drew criticism in some U.S. lawmakers.
Rep. Mike Honda, who has championed sexual slavery victims, said it was shocking and shameful that Abe continued to evade Japan’s responsibility over the so-called “comfort women” during World War II.
Abe’s refusal to apologize is an “insult” to victims and is not acceptable, he said.
South Korea has repeatedly pressed Japan to resolve the issue of the elderly Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during World War II. Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910-45. Historians estimate that more than 200,000 women were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Park also urged her foreign affairs team to continue to believe in their conviction and deal with history as it should be while pursuing other matters related to the alliance and relations with the U.S., China and Japan with clear purpose and direction.
Park’s remarks were echoed by Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se during a parliamentary session the same day.
“Although we are resolute on the matters of history, we continue to maintain a two-track strategy where we share strategic understanding, including that of the North Korean nuclear problem, and fortify (cooperation on) the economy and culture,” Yoon told lawmakers of the foreign affairs committee.
The Seoul government has made progress on the sexual enslavement issue a precondition for a summit with Tokyo.
“Even though Japan fails to confront history and is being bombarded with its own problems of history, this is a problem that we cannot solve for them,” Park said.
Park’s remarks also appeared to show her foreign affairs lineup will stay intact, despite demands from the opposition for a reshuffle.
By Cho Chung-un and news reports