SEOUL--South Korean President Park Geun-hye on March 1 warned of worsening relations if Japan revises a government statement apologizing to former “comfort women.”
“Historical truth lies in the testimony given by the living,” Park said in a speech marking the anniversary of an independence movement against Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The annual ceremony is held to commemorate the “three-one movement,” which began on March 1, 1919.
Park touched on two statements that have long served to define Japan’s stance on its actions during World War II.
The 1993 statement issued in the name of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologized to former comfort women, many of them Korean, who were forced into front-line brothels for Japanese troops before and during World War II. The statement also acknowledged the involvement of the imperial Japanese military.
In 1995, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issued a statement on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II that expressed Japan’s “deep remorse” and an apology for the suffering endured by many people, especially in Asia.
In her speech, Park said, “Despite their painful history, the two nations (of Japan and South Korea) have been able to develop their relationship because there was the historical understanding of apologizing for colonial domination and aggression through the Murayama and Kono statements and to move together into the future.”
Regarding the comfort women issue, she said, “The scars of the victims have to be soothed.”
She added, “If the voices of those who have given testimony are ignored and not recognized only for the purpose of political benefits, that will only lead to isolation.”
Some Japanese politicians are calling for a review of the Kono statement, saying it was based on testimonies given by former comfort women that were not verified by documents.
Park also pointed to the possibility of a further worsening of ties between Japan and South Korea depending on what the Abe administration does.
“Leaders who cannot recognize mistakes will be unable to open the door to a new future,” she said.
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