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Japan urged to face history with courage

By Agencies in Seoul | China Daily | Updated: 2015-03-02 07:39

World War II sex slave issue needs speedy resolution, as number of survivors dwindles

South Korean President Park Geun-hye urged Japan on Sunday to face up to history with courage and sincerity to write a new history as South Korea's future partner for another 50 years.

Park made the remarks during a ceremony marking South Korea's 1919 nationwide uprising against Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule.

Fifty years have passed since Seoul and Tokyo forged diplomatic ties in 1965.

"It is high time that (the two countries) write a new history together as more mature partners for the next 50 years, as seen in the case of Germany and France who overcame conflicts and enmity and played leading roles in building a new Europe," said Park.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of South Korea's independence from Japan's colonial rule as well as the 50th anniversary of normalized relations between the countries.

Park, who was sworn in as the head of state in February 2013, has refused to hold a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, citing his wrong perception of history.

Abe infuriated Asian neighbors after visiting the notorious Yasukuni Shrine in December 2013, as it honors 14 convicted war criminals from World War II.

He returned to power in December 2012.

South Korea has made efforts to open a new era of the 21st century Seoul-Tokyo cooperation since Park took office, but the countries, despite their geographic proximity, have failed to narrow emotional distances due to conflicts over history, Park said.

Park stressed that the World War II sex slave issue is a historical task that must be resolved, saying that little time is left for the elderly victims seeking restoration of honor, whose age averages almost 90.

Mainstream historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from Korea but also from China, Indonesia and other Asian nations, were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops during World War II.

The issue - a key sticking point in ties between the neighbors - further strained relations in recent months amid an increasingly aggressive campaign in Japan to claim these "comfort women" were common prostitutes.

Park has urged Japanese leaders to offer an apology, and on Sunday repeated the call for Tokyo to use "all means" to resolve the issue as the number of survivors rapidly dwindles.

"We now have only 53 survivors, aged nearly 90 on average. Time is running out to restore their honor," Park said.

The victims have not been given redress for their treatment despite repeated efforts in the decades since the war.

A portion of the political right, including Abe, still claim the wartime army brothels were staffed by professional prostitutes.

Tokyo also embarked on a global campaign to promote a more sympathetic version of Japan's wartime atrocities in school textbooks.

Such efforts to "distort" history also hurt relations, Park said.

Seoul-Tokyo ties have been icy for years since a long-running territorial row flared up and exacerbated other long-standing historical disputes.

Abe and Park have not met for a formal summit since they took power, raising concerns over the partnership between the two main US military allies in Asia.

Xinhua - AFP



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