• Kyodo

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South Korea’s Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Wednesday called on Japan to take a hard look at its history and acknowledge past wrongs.

“The Japanese government should squarely face history and have sincerity and consistency in educating future generations and reflecting on its past wrongdoings,” Hwang said in a speech made at a ceremony marking the 98th anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement against Japanese colonial rule.

“The starting point for a future-oriented partnership between South Korea and Japan is a proper understanding of history and the education of future generations.”

Hwang said South Korea will continue to cooperate with Japan in the fields of the economy, culture and people-to-people exchanges and further strengthen cooperation for peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia, including joint responses to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

In Wednesday’s speech, Hwang said Japan and South Korea should “truly respect the agreement” in 2015 to settle the issue of Korean women forced to work in Japanese military brothels and “fully realize its purpose and spirit.”

Hwang’s remarks came as bilateral ties between the two neighbors remain strained after a statue representing the “comfort women,” set up by a South Korean civic group in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan in December, reignited diplomatic tensions.

Japan has demanded that South Korea remove the statue and a similar one outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, citing the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which requires the host state to prevent disturbance of the peace of a diplomatic mission or impairment of its dignity.

The installation of the statue in Busan, despite the landmark 2015 bilateral agreement to “finally and irreversibly” resolve this protracted dispute, prompted Tokyo to recall its ambassador, Yasumasa Nagamine.

Japan has said it will not return Nagamine to his post in Seoul unless it sees progress on the statue issue. The statue in Seoul, which also symbolizes the former comfort women, was erected by a civic group in 2011.

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