Settle comfort women issue, Park urges Japan

A protester holds a photo of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a demonstration outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul on March 1, 2014.

SEOUL - South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Saturday implicitly demanded Japan settle the issue of so-called comfort women in an address marking Korea's 1919 uprising against Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule, saying "Japan should make a courageous decision" over issues involving the history of the two nations.

"There are only 55 grandmothers [former comfort women] remaining, and their wounds must, of course, be healed," Park said at a ceremony to mark the 95th anniversary of the uprising that started on March 1.

By making these remarks, Park was seen to be demanding that Japan make apologies and offer remuneration to the former comfort women. It is the first time Park has publicly commented on the issue and urged Japan to settle it.

She also said "the truth lies in the testimony of the survivors," an apparent jab against a move by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to examine the testimony of South Korean former comfort women, on which a 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono was based.

The statement expressed "apologies and remorse" over the comfort women issue.

While saying that Japan and South Korea will observe the 50th anniversary of normalizing their diplomatic relations next year, Park said cooperative ties were built on mutually shared understanding.

"There was this historical perception that [Japan] would promote friendly ties with its neighbours based on its pacifist Constitution and step forward into the future while reflecting on the colonial rule and invasions through the Murayama and Kono statements," she said.