South Korea's Moon calls for Japan's 'sincere apology' over comfort women

Seoul to announce measures on 'defective' sex slavery deal

South Korea will not seek to renegotiate a deal with Japan on wartime sex slavery, it said yesterday, despite new President Moon Jae-In saying on the campaign trail he "could not accept" the agreement.

South Korean President Moon, who took office in May, and his administration, however, have said they are revisiting the process under which the accord was made under the previous government, noting that the pact does not reflect the will of the majority of South Korean people. It went on to say that South Korea's "refusal to bend in its position that the problem is not resolved is expected to have some impact on the future of Japan-South Korea relations".

Sentiments about the issue are still running deep in both South Korea and Japan, the two crucial allies of the U.S. given the tension situation due to North Korea threats. But Seoul will not use the 1 billion yen (US$8.9 million) relief fund that Japan paid under the 2015 deal, the government said, declaring that the sex slavery issue remains unresolved.

Following the announcement in Seoul, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters in Tokyo that Japan can not accept the demand from South Korea.

"With regard to a demand by South Korea for restoring the honor and dignity of former comfort women, a senior official of the Japanese Foreign Ministry said, "[Seoul] may be expecting that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will send a letter of apology, among other steps". Kang added that South Korea hoped Japan would offer the victims what they still sought - "a voluntary and honest apology".

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He said Tokyo continues to urge Seoul to steadily implement the agreement. South Korea in turn pledged to not criticize Japan over the issue.

"There is no room for any compromise on that agreement", he said.

Japan colonised the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945 and occupied parts of China before and after the war.

Kanasugi called South Korea's recognizing the deal as wrong "unacceptable". "The government needs to take enough time to listen to the victims, experts and civic groups, as well as to have sufficient consultations with Japan, in order to tackle the issue".

The steady implementation of this agreement is both countries' duty to the global community, Kono said following South Korea announcing its policy position. The meeting between representatives of North and South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two countries was the first formal round of talks in more than two years, and helped ease tensions that had been escalating over the North's nuclear and missile tests.