From the Korea Times:
By Jun Ji-hye
President Moon Jae-in pledged to resolve a row over Japan’s wartime sex slavery “from the victim’s point of view,” Thursday, saying what was most important in tackling the issue was to address their feelings.
Moon also reiterated that the controversial deal Seoul reached with Tokyo in 2015 failed to respect the victims as it ignored the “principles of truth and justice.”
He made the comments during a luncheon meeting with a group of nine former “comfort women” at Cheong Wa Dae.
The meeting came after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ taskforce announced Dec. 27 that the former Park Geun-hye government neglected to solicit the opinions of the victims before reaching the December 2015 agreement with Japan to “finally and irreversibly” resolve a decades-old dispute over its wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women.
The meeting highlighted Moon’s objections to the controversial deal between Seoul and Tokyo, showing his willingness to modify or even cancel the agreement.
Cheong Wa Dae said President Moon had time with the victims to listen to their opinions before deciding on the government position on how to resolve the issue.
“I, as President, apologize for the agreement that was against the wishes of the victims,” Moon said, according to presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun. “The agreement was wrong and unjust. The former government unilaterally decided on procedures and content without considering the victims’ opinions.”
Moon continued, “I cannot deny the 2015 deal was a formal agreement between the two governments, but I declare the issue of Japan’s wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women won’t be resolved by it.”
The luncheon followed the President’s visit to 90-year-old former sex slave, Kim Bok-dong, at a local hospital, during which time he stressed his government will do its best to solve the issue.
In response, Kim said what the victims wanted was just Japan’s acknowledgment of its legal responsibility.
When announcing the results of its months-long review, the ministry’s taskforce said then-Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and his counterpart Fumio Kishida did not openly share some details in 2015 during their verbal agreement. These included why Japan, despite the Park government’s denial, insisted on Seoul’s responsibility to remove the statues of girls ― representing the victims ― installed outside Japanese diplomatic missions here, according to the taskforce.
A day after the announcement, Moon said the long-simmering issue cannot be settled by the 2015 accord, calling it a “political” deal with no consultations with the victims and citizens.
For her part, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said, during a radio appearance Thursday that the government is leaving all options open on the issue, including the cancellation of the deal. “But we should carefully think about the results that would follow,” she said.
Amid the move to modify the deal, Tokyo has reiterated its view that the matter was settled finally and irreversibly, and Seoul should sincerely implement it.
As part of the deal, the Japanese government provided 1 billion yen to a Korean foundation dedicated to supporting the victims. But controversy is still abounding as the surviving victims accused the Park government of failing to obtain Japan’s acknowledgment of its legal responsibility and rashly reached the deal without consulting them.