Japan should stop disputing the "coercive" nature of its wartime enslavement of Korean and other countries' women, a former top U.N. official said Thursday.
Navi Pillay, who served as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights from 2008-2014, emphasized that Japan's crime against humanity during World War II is not only a problem for Koreans but also an issue that concerns the international community.
"I have called for the Japanese government to conduct a comprehensive investigation and deliver justice," she said at the 16th World Knowledge Forum in Seoul.
She was referring to Tokyo's reluctance to fully address South Korea's call to offer a sincere apology for the victims and appropriate compensation.
More than 200,000 women, mainly from Korea and also China, Taiwan, the Philippines and the Netherlands, were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese troops during World War II. They are euphemistically called "comfort women."
Pillay, a South African lawyer, is known as a life-time advocate of human rights. She has shown keen interest in the comfort women issue.
"The young women of Korea were forcibly transported by the aggressor to Japan and should be honored as prisoners of war," she said. "It was a coercive situation. We must assume that in that coercive situation there was no consent."
Given the practice of international trials for such sexual violations, "There is no need to prove certain criteria of consent," she added.
She recalled her visit the day before to the War and Women's Human Rights Museum in Seoul run by a civic group campaigning to help comfort women.
"I was moved by the generosity of the Korean Council (for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan) towards assisting women who are suffering sexual violence in current conflicts in Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Sudan and other conflicts," she said.
Pillay also stressed the world should take immediate actions against North Korea's human rights abuse including the referral of the matter to the International Criminal Court as recommended by the Commission of Inquiry.
"The COI found systematic, widespread and grave human rights violations occurring in the DPRK and a disturbing array of crimes against humanity," she pointed out. "It is the responsibility of the international community to act on this report and address the scourge of human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the DPRK (North Korea)."
She said South Korea's push for reconciliation with North Korea is desirable, but it shouldn't be traded with efforts to address the human rights violations there.
Earlier this week, meanwhile, Pillay met with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se in Seoul to discuss ways to deal with humanitarian crises worldwide. (Yonhap)