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'Sincere apology' from Japan required on 'comfort women,' Moon says

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has supported a solution to the issue of comfort women beyond a 2015 settlement reached under a previous administration. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has supported a solution to the issue of "comfort women" beyond a 2015 settlement reached under a previous administration. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The resolution of the "comfort women" issue between South Korea and Japan hinges on a "sincere apology" from Tokyo, South Korea's president said, amid an ongoing row over a South Korean court ruling ordering Japan to pay damages.

Moon Jae-in said Friday during a meeting with the ruling Democratic Party's leadership that the issue of victims of Japanese wartime brothels should be "understood" by the stakeholders, including the Japanese government, News 1 reported.

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Moon also said the problem "cannot be solved by money." In 2015, under the previous administration of President Park Geun-hye, South Korea and Japan agreed to settle the issue with a $9 million Japanese payout to surviving victims.

Seoul also said at the time Japan apologized for the rampant rights abuses and sexual assaults against the women, many of them young girls.

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The agreement was accepted by some of the victims and their families, but an activist group rejected the compensation, citing private donations. Moon's administration has backed those claims and others who protested the decision. In 2018, the government dissolved the foundation, angering Japan.

Relations between the two countries, key U.S. allies in the region, have worsened amid the dispute. The vast majority of Japanese in a survey published Friday agreed that "relations are not good" between the two sides.

The Japanese Cabinet Office survey conducted from October to December last year showed 82.4% of 3,000 Japanese respondents did not think positively of relations with South Korea.

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The number was slightly lower than in 2019, when nearly nine out of 10 Japanese respondents said they agreed Seoul-Tokyo ties were in a poor state.

On Thursday, Yonhap reported a U.S. State Department source weighed in on the comfort women issue, while condemning the "trafficking of women for sexual purposes by the Japanese military during World War II."

"We have long encouraged Japan and [South Korea] to continue to work together on this issue in a way that promotes healing and reconciliation," the unnamed official said, according to the report.

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