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(LEAD) Moon calls for Japan's sincere apology to resolve sex slavery issue

All News 12:26 January 10, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS more comments, background from 3rd para)

SEOUL, Jan. 10 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday urged Japan to accept historical truth and make a heartfelt apology to the victims of its wartime sexual slavery as part of efforts to resolve the longstanding feud over the issue between the two countries.

In a nationally televised press conference, Moon reaffirmed that a controversial 2015 deal with Japan aimed at resolving the issue once and for all was reached "in the wrong way," which excluded the opinions of the victims.

"Basically, the comfort women issue should be resolved based on the principle of truth and justice," Moon said. "I think the victims will forgive and this issue can be completely resolved when Japan accepts the truth, make a heartfelt apology to the victims, learn lessons and cooperate with the international community in preventing recurrence of such a thing."

"This should be resolved this way. I don't think that this is a matter that can be resolved in a give-and-take manner between governments with the victims excluded in the process," he added.

Under the deal reached on Dec. 28, 2015, the two countries agreed to "finally and irreversibly" resolve the comfort women issue. Tokyo apologized for its colonial-era atrocities and pledged 1 billion yen (US$8.9 million) to a foundation dedicated to supporting the victims.

The deal prompted strong criticism from victims and civic groups who claim that Japan's apology was not sincere enough and that the government did not consult with them in advance. Some, including victims, call for renegotiating or even scrapping the deal.

The Moon administration's panel in charge of reviewing the deal has recently concluded that the previous Park Geun-hye government failed to make sufficient efforts to reflect views and opinions of victims and citizens.

But the government announced on Tuesday it will not to seek a renegotiation. It, instead, vowed to set aside its own funds to help the victims heal their wounds and recover their dignity, not using Japan's contribution.

The government appears to face a dilemma as it has to minimize strains on bilateral ties with Japan, while at the same time making efforts to recover honor and dignity of the victims.

Moon said that he is not satisfied with the follow-up measures announced Tuesday but admitted that it was the results of taking into consideration of the country's relations with Japan as well.

"How could it be satisfactory," Moon said. "Still since it is a diplomatic matter where there is a counterpart and the deal was formally reached between governments, even if we are not fully satisfied with this, we should find a realistic and best-available method."


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