SEOUL – South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in urged Japan on Thursday to reflect upon the crimes committed during its colonial rule in the first half of the last century, and reiterated that the 2015 agreement on comfort woman does not settle the issue.
Moon’s remark came during a discourse on Thursday on the occasion of Korean Independence Movement Day, commemorating the date when thousands of South Koreans took to the streets in 1919 to protest against Japan’s colonial rule (1910-1945).
“Inhumane violation of human rights during war cannot be covered by saying it is over,” Moon said during his speech.
“A true resolution only comes from remembering history and learning from that history, especially when it is history of an unfortunate past,” the president added.
An estimated 200,000 women, mainly from China and the Korean peninsula, were forced to provide sex services to Japanese soldiers from 1930 onwards, especially in the final stretch of World War II, which ended in 1945.
In 2015, during the tenure of former President Park Geun-hye, Seoul and Tokyo agreed to settle the issue “finally and irreversibly” with Japan issuing a formal apology and paying 1 billion yen ($9.3 million) to a foundation that supported surviving victims of the wartime sexual slavery.
The Japanese government has repeatedly called on South Korea to honor the agreement, but the Moon Administration believes it does not resolve the conflict, as it excluded the victims and the society from its negotiation.
In a ceremony held at Seodaemun Prison, which was used during the Japanese colonial period to imprison and persecute some 100,000 Korean independence fighters, Moon said on Thursday that he did not seek special treatment from the neighboring country.
“I wish Japan will truly make up with its neighboring countries that it oppressed and together walk the path of peaceful co-prosperity. I do not demand special treatment from Japan. I simply want Japan to move into the future with us based on its sincere reflection and apology,” Moon said, according to Yonhap news agency.
Japan’s government described the South Korean president’s words as unacceptable and extremely regrettable and raised a protest through diplomatic channels in Seoul, said the Japanese government spokesperson, Yoshihide Suga.