South Korean President Park Geun-hye yesterday warned Japan that it would face “isolation” if it pushed ahead with a move to revisit an apology over wartime sex slavery.
Her warning, in a speech marking the anniversary of a 1919 anti-Japanese uprising, coincided with the opening of a rare exhibition in Seoul on “comfort women” — a euphemism for women who were forced into Japanese military brothels during World War II.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration is moving to reconsider a 1995 apology for comfort women, putting further stress on the already frayed ties between the two neighbors.
“Historical truth is in testimony from the survivors. Japan would only bring isolation on itself if it turns a deaf ear to their testimony and sweeps it under the rug for political benefits,” Park said.
She called on Japan to follow Germany in repenting its past wrongs so that the two countries can put bitter memories behind them and “move forward for a new era of cooperation, peace and prosperity.”
“I hope Japan extricates itself from denial of history and starts making a new history of truth and reconciliation,” Park said.
Hundreds of protesters were killed in a 1919 crackdown on widespread demonstrations by Koreans who were rallying for independence from Japan, which occupied the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
In Seoul, a few hundred actors and citizens, many of them dressed up in colonial-era costumes and as Japanese imperial troops, yesterday re-enacted the bloodbath outside what used to be a prison where pro-independence activists were incarcerated.
Art performances and anti-Japanese rallies also took place in Seoul and other provincial cities with greater intensity than past years, reflecting the latest gush of anti-Japanese sentiment.
The politically charged issue of comfort women has stoked regional tensions, with South Korea and China insisting that Japan must face up to its World War II-era sexual enslavement of women from across occupied Asia.
After decades of Japanese pacifism, Beijing this week approved national remembrance days to commemorate the 1937 Nanjing Massacre by Japanese troops and Japan’s defeat in World War II.