Japan faces international isolation, and condemnation, if it continues plans to withdraw its official apology for forcing of thousands women to work in military brothels before and during the Second World War, South Korea’s president claimed today.
President Park Geun-hye’s warning was made in a speech marking the anniversary of a 1919 uprising against Japanese rule of the Korean peninsula.
The administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Friday that it would consider setting up a panel to review the evidence for an apology made in 1993.
Around 200,000 women, mostly from China and Korea, and also, in fewer numbers, from the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan, are believed to have been forced to become sex slaves.
“Historical truth is in testimony from the survivors. Japan would only bring isolation on itself if it turns a deaf ear to their testimony and sweeps it under the rug,” Ms Park said. She said Japan should repent for its wrongs in the past so the two nations can “move forward for a new era of cooperation, peace and prosperity”.
The remarks coincided with the opening in Seoul of a rare exhibition on the “comfort women” – as those who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels were known.
Mr Abe sparked controversy in his first term as PM by remarking there was no evidence that the Japanese had directly coerced women into sex slavery.
The Japan Times reported that right-wing politicians have aggravated South Koreans by questioning evidence behind the claims and some think that the Japanese are not appropriately remorseful.
The 1993 apology was considered a landmark achievement. It acknowledged that women had been coerced, and that the Japanese military had been involved in the establishment and management of the process.
However, although a Japanese government spokesman said on Friday that a team would “re-examine and understand the background”, he did not reveal whether an new statement would be made afterwards. Two former Japanese PMs have expressed their concern over the move.