South Korean historians Wednesday called on Japan to swiftly resolve the issue of its wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women, as South Korea prepares to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its independence from Japanese colonial rule.
More than 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were sexually enslaved by Japanese soldiers during World War II, according to historians.
Several Japanese politicians, most notably former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono and former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in the 1990s, have made statements admitting to Japan's war crimes and apologized. But these statements have been overturned by their successors, including the current prime minister, Shinzo Abe.
The Annual Conference on Historical Studies in Korea said Japan must clearly state its intent to inherit its two previous statements of apology -- the 1993 Kono and the 1995 Murayama statements.
"The Japanese government must no longer deny or distort the truth and immediately issue a heartfelt apology and compensate the victims," the coalition of 20 historical societies said in a statement. "South Korea and Japan must strive to reach an agreement before any more victims pass away."
Only 238 of these "comfort women" have been registered with the South Korean government, with 48 of them remaining alive.
Korea was a Japanese colony from 1910-45 before Japan's World War II defeat ended the occupation. (Yonhap)