SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s president, marking the 99th anniversary of the launch of an independence movement from Japanese colonization, criticized Japan’s insistence that the issue of women forced to provide sex for Japanese troops in World War II has been settled.
“The Japanese government, the perpetrator, should not say the matter is closed,” President Moon Jae-in said Thursday in a speech at a prison used by Japan to hold freedom fighters during the colonial era. “The issue of a crime against humanity committed in time of war cannot be closed with just a word. A genuine resolution of unfortunate history is to remember it and learn a lesson from it.”
So-called comfort women provided sex for Japan’s military in conditions that many experts say were sexual slavery. Many of the women were from Korea, a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945, and were taken to front-line brothels.
The previous South Korean government, under conservative President Park Geun-hye, signed an accord with Japan in late 2015 to settle the issue, which has bedeviled bilateral relations. Both governments called the agreement “final and irreversible.”
Moon’s government hasn’t tried to revise the accord, but he has questioned it.
The Japanese government said it lodged a “strong protest” over Moon’s latest remarks, which Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said go against the 2015 agreement.
“Japan has done everything in accordance with the accord,” he said. “We, then, strongly demand that South Korea fulfills its side of the pledge.”
Moon also used the occasion to criticize Japan’s claim to a group of small islands that both countries say they own.
“It is our indigenous territory,” he said of the islands, called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan. “Japan’s current denial of this fact is no different from rejecting self-reflection of (its) imperialistic invasion.”