S. Korea, Japan to hold sex slavery talks

March 16, 2015
Lee Sang-deok (L), Seoul's chief delegate to the talks on Japan's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II, enters a conference room at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on March 16, 2015. At right is his Japanese counterpart, Junichi Ihara. The sides are seeking to improve their icy ties as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of their bilateral relations. The year also marks the 70th anniversary of Seoul's liberation from Tokyo's colonial rule in 1945. (Yonhap)

Lee Sang-deok (L), Seoul’s chief delegate to the talks on Japan’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II, enters a conference room at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on March 16, 2015. At right is his Japanese counterpart, Junichi Ihara. The sides are seeking to improve their icy ties as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of their bilateral relations. The year also marks the 70th anniversary of Seoul’s liberation from Tokyo’s colonial rule in 1945. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korea and Japan were to hold talks on Tokyo’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II on Monday as the two historical rivals make efforts to improve their strained ties in a landmark year, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

Lee Sang-deok, Seoul’s chief delegate to the talks, plans to meet with his Japanese counterpart, Junichi Ihara, later in the day in Seoul in their seventh round of talks to discuss the “comfort women” issue, according to the foreign ministry.

Last April the two countries launched the talks on sex slavery, but no major progress has been made as Japan is reluctant to sincerely apologize for its past wrongdoings.

The meeting comes as the Seoul-Tokyo ties have plunged to their lowest level in recent years mainly due to the sex slavery issue. Historians estimate the number of sex slaves at about 200,000 with only 53 South Korean victims alive today.

South Korea and Japan are seeking to improve their icy ties as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of their bilateral relations. The year also marks the 70th anniversary of Seoul’s liberation from Tokyo’s colonial rule in 1945.

Seoul demands that Japan show sincerity by resolving the sex slave issue in a way that is acceptable to the living victims. But Japan has long dismissed Seoul’s demands, saying that all grievances related to its colonial rule were settled through a 1965 treaty that normalized their bilateral ties.

In June, Japan irked Seoul and Beijing, victims of Tokyo’s wartime aggression, by saying that its 1993 apology over the sex slavery issue, named the Kono Statement, was the outcome of a political compromise between Seoul and Tokyo.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to release a statement in August to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II.

Abe said he will express remorse over Japan’s role in the war in his fresh statement, but the prevailing view is that the premier will not apologize for the sex slavery issue and may water down the spirit of Japan’s 1995 apology for Japan’s colonial rule, named the Murayama Statement.

Since taking office in early 2013, South Korean President Park Geun-hye has shunned a summit with Abe as a show of anger against Tokyo’s refusal to face up to its historical grievances.

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