SOUTH KOREA’s government has said the country’s citizens widely disapprove of a deal intended to end a feud with Japan over the latter’s enslavement of women during World War II, revealing its new president’s position on the issue.
The Japanese government paid ¥1 billion (US$9 million) last August to establish a foundation to help women forced into sexual enslavement by Japan’s military. The deal was widely criticised, however, including by 12 victims who subsequently sued the South Korean government.
On Monday, Seoul released a statement in which it emphasised that bilateral consultation was the way forward to resolve the issue. It is the first time the newly-inaugurated President Moon Jae-in has outlined its policy position on the topic.
“The government wishes to overcome the problem wisely through joint efforts between South Korea and Japan while accepting the reality that the majority of our public do not approve of the comfort women agreement sentimentally,” said a press release from the Korean ministry of foreign affairs.
Given the UN secretary-general’s previous stance on supporting bilateral consultation as a means to solve conflicted issues, his latest remarks also seem to be in support of the principle that he backs problem resolution through bilateral discussion between South Korea and Japan
The government’s comments came in response to supposedly fabricated reports in Japanese newspapers that UN Sectary General António Guterres had expressed support for the deal.
The secretary general’s office released statement refuting Japanese newspapers’ claims, stating that he “did not pronounce himself on the content of a specific agreement but on the principle that it is up to the two countries to define the nature and the content of the solution for this issue.”
Speaking outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul last August, one of the victims Kim Bok-dong said: “I call on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to make a formal, sincere apology in front of the press and restore our honour.”