ROK urges Japan to resolve 'comfort women' issue

Updated: 2012-03-01 15:52


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SEOUL - South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Thursday urged Japan to take a positive stance on solving the issue of Korean "comfort women", who were forced into sexual slavery under Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule.

Lee made the call in a speech marking the 93rd anniversary of the Korea's 1919 nationwide uprising, known as the March First Independence Movement against Japan's colonization of the Korean Peninsula.  

Lee stressed that to become true partners and maintain close cooperative relations between South Korea and Japan, genuine courage and wisdom to face the truth of history are necessary more than anything else.

Lee said the "comfort women" issue should be settled urgently as the victims, who "have lived with excruciating emotional pain and suffering for their entire lives", are mostly in their 80s and 90s.

Japan will permanently miss the chance to settle the issue if the former Korean comfort women pass away without receiving compensation or an apology from Japan, Lee said.

Lee made a similar call when he met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Nada in December, but the latter reaffirmed Tokyo's stance, saying the "'comfort women' issue has been settled according to Japan's law".

Japan has acknowledged its wartime military's crimes against women. However, it holds a firm stance on the "comfort women" issue, arguing the issue was settled by a bilateral treaty in 1965 that normalized diplomatic ties between the two countries.

There are now 63 survivors left out of the 234 "comfort women" registered with the South Korean government.