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Korea to press Japan at UN over wartime sex slavery

Publication Date : 03-10-2012


Officials plan to urge again a sincere apology and compensation for the victims


South Korea is poised to crank up pressure on Japan over wartime sex slavery and other historical issues at a UN session today as neighbouring countries are increasingly concerned about Tokyo’s rapid swing to the right.

Seoul officials plan to urge once again a sincere apology and compensation for the victims during a session of the Third Committee, which covers social, women and human rights issues.

Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan raised the issue of the wartime abuses against women at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

This week, Seoul officials will likely mention Japan and comfort women directly.

“As we brought up the comfort women issue last year through remarks by a deputy ambassador to the UN, we’re seriously considering doing it again during the meeting this year,” ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young told a regular news briefing.

The session runs through November 28 dealing with more than 50 draft resolutions with 45 special rapporteurs, international experts and officials from the Human Rights Council. Discussions on women-related motions are tentatively scheduled for October 15-19.

Shin Dong-ik, South Korea’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, told the committee last year that “the comfort women issue deals with a crime against humanity and cannot be viewed as settled by the Korea-Japan indemnity agreement and thus the Japanese government still carries a legal responsibility.”

During his keynote speech at the General Assembly, Kim urged measures to protect women in armed conflicts and a UN resolution on effective remedies and reparations for victims and penalties for the offenders.

While shunning explicit reference, he demanded Japan “confront the dark side of its history and endeavour to rectify past wrongdoings.”

“Wartime sexual violence is a fundamental infringement of human rights and is in fact an affront to human dignity and integrity,” Kim said, calling such violence “egregious acts”.

Up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, are believed to have had been forced to have sex with Japanese troops during World War II.

Tokyo acknowledges that it mobilised women in front-line brothels but insists that the issue was already resolved via a 1965 indemnity pact between the two countries. Seoul argues that the victims are entitled to pursue compensation both on government and individual bases.

The minister also dismissed as an “abuse” of the international litigation system Tokyo’s proposal for a territorial row over Dokdo in the East Sea to be settled in the International Court of Justice.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda reiterated the proposal during his address today.

“No country should abuse international legal procedures and the notion of the rule of law in order to infringe upon the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries, or to distort the historical justice,” Kim said.

He launched unusually stringent criticism Thursday on Noda over “double standards,” that he demands a trial with Seoul at the ICJ, but denies the existence of a separate territorial row with China over Senkaku or Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.

The diplomatic clash comes as concerns mount over a growing number of Japanese politicians veering to the right amid a triple whammy of elections, protracting economic doldrums and a rising China.

Last week, the conservative main opposition Liberal Democratic Party elected former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as its new leader, raising the possibility for his comeback to premiership. The staunch nationalist has hinted at visiting the Yasukuni Shrine venerating war criminals and endorsing the country’s right of collective defence.

With a sweeping reshuffle, Noda’s new Cabinet has also set “territorial protection” as one of its key priorities for statecraft.

“Takeshima is our territory according to history and international law but is administered by Korea. Since realistically there is a sovereignty issue there, our stance is to settle it in the international court,” he told a news conference on Monday, repeating the century-old assertion once again.

On Senkaku, however, Noda claimed that “it is clearly our territory based on international law and history, and we are currently in effective control. So our position is that there is no sovereignty issue and we don’t plan to initiate a case with the International Court of Justice”.


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