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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Herald on Sept.10)

All News 09:17 September 10, 2016

Low-key summit
Seoul should publicize Abe's demand on slavery deal

It is commendable that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe portrayed North Korea's recent ballistic missile provocations as "indescribable violence." He reiterated the significance of bilateral coordination against the communist regime's saber-rattling.

Abe seemingly turning up the heat on Pyongyang came during his summit with President Park Geun-hye in Laos earlier this week.

It is desirable for the two sides to map out detailed ways for closer collaboration as the North's latest missile tests threaten the security of both Seoul and Tokyo. Some of these missiles were found to have landed within Japan's exclusive economic zone in the East Sea.

During the summit, Park and Abe also discussed the progress in the implementation of the deal on Dec. 28, 2015 to settle the thorny issue of Japan's wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women. This is likely to create a stir domestically, amid an ambiguous explanation by the presidential office to the public.

Abe reportedly called for Park to remove the statue symbolizing victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery in front of Japanese Embassy in Seoul. It has been a tricky issue since the bilateral deal between the two sides' foreign ministries last year.

Abe was reported by Japanese media to have brought up this sensitive issue for the first time in person to Park. The life-size bronze statue of a young girl in traditional Korean clothing, known as the Peace Monument, represents the Imperial Japanese Army's tens of thousands of former Korean sex slaves during World War II, euphemistically referred to as comfort women.

He was quoted by a Japanese news provider as saying, "Japan has completed the 1 billion yen (US$9.83 million) payment stipulated by the agreement." He reportedly said the Japanese government "wants to see earnest efforts at implementing the agreement, including the removal of the statue."

Cheong Wa Dae clarified that Park did not comment on the statue. On the other hand, Yomiuri Shimbun reported that she said "it is important to faithfully implement the accord."

The Korean government might be put in an awkward position between its citizens and its deal counterpart.

A recent local survey showed that 76 percent of Koreans said they were against the removal of the statue, with only 10 percent responding that they support its relocation. According to the poll, more than 8 in 10 respondents said they thought "Japan has yet to apologize for its wartime sexual slavery" in a sincere manner.

The issue cannot be approached in the customary argument paradigm such as conservatives vs. liberals or the ruling party vs. the opposition.

Any careless policymaking and diplomacy could be linked to a failure of the incumbent administration.

Far more importantly, it could add another indelible stain to national history. Unless there is a sincere apology from the Japanese government that can sufficiently placate victims and a dominant portion of Koreans, removal of the statue could lead to a negative response from them.

In addition, other Asian countries, such as Taiwan, that also have victims are closely monitoring Korea's future moves.

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