Moon Jae-in hints at scrapping 'comfort women' deal in phone talks with Abe
May 11, 2017
President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday hinted at possibly scrapping an agreement with Tokyo over Japan's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II, insisting that most South Koreans could not accept the deal reached by the former Seoul government.

"President Moon noted the reality was that most of his people could not accept the agreement over the sexual slavery issue," Moon's chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan said of the president's telephone conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The conversation came as Abe sought to congratulate the new South Korean leader on his election this week. Moon came into office Wednesday, only one day after winning the presidential by-election caused by the March 10 ouster of his predecessor Park Geun-hye over a massive corruption scandal.

The thorny issue of sexual slavery apparently took center stage of the conversation after the Japanese premier urged the new liberal Seoul government to honor the agreement signed by its conservative predecessor.

"Abe repeated Japan's expectation for the faithful implementation of the deal," Yoon said at a press briefing. The deal, reached late 2015, has been widely considered to have acquitted Japan of the wartime crime once and for all. In exchange, Japan agreed to provide 1 billion yen ($8.76 million), part of which will be used to directly compensate former Korean victims of its past brutality. Many South Koreans, including most of the victims themselves, have rejected the agreement signed by Seoul's former conservative administration.

Moon had promised to seek a renegotiation of the agreement with Japan as one of his key election pledges. Yoon said the South Korean president did not use the word "renegotiation" in his 25-minute dialogue with the Japanese prime minister.

Instead, Moon urged Abe and his government to honor previous statements released by their own predecessors -- Tomiichi Murayama and Yohei Kono -- in which the former Japanese leaders acknowledged and apologized for Japan's wartime sexual slavery of Asian women. Despite his firm stance on the sexual slavery issue, the new South Korean president said historical issues must not hinder the countries' bilateral relations and joint efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

"He said he saw a need for the two countries to work together and wisely overcome historical disputes including the comfort women issue, while separately continuing their joint efforts to deal with the North Korean nuclear issue," Yoon told a press briefing.

"We cannot say there have not been ups and downs in the countries' relationship for more than half a century since the countries normalized their diplomatic ties, but their relations have seen great advances in various areas, and there is unlimited space for further development in the future," Moon was quoted as saying.

"The countries must look squarely to their history so issues related to their past will not become an obstacle while the countries move toward a more developed, mature relationship," he added, according to Yoon.

Source:The Korea Times

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