National / Politics

Controversial head of South Korean parliament to visit Japan in November

Kyodo, Staff Report

The head of South Korea’s parliament, who made a controversial statement that Japan’s emperor should make an apology over the “comfort women” issue, will visit Tokyo next month.

The term “comfort women” refers to women who provided sex, including those who did so against their will, for Japanese troops before and during World War II

The Upper House announced Monday that National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang will represent South Korea at a meeting between parliamentary leaders of the Group of 20 major economies on Nov. 4.

He will not hold a bilateral meeting with Upper House President Akiko Santo.

Moon drew heavy criticism from Japan in February when he said that an apology from then-Emperor Akihito would resolve the long-standing comfort woman dispute. He later apologized for the remark.

The Upper House’s secretariat declined to say why it is not arranging for a meeting between Santo and Moon. But in September, Santo expressed resentment over the comments, telling South Korean Ambassador Nam Gwan-pyo that they were “incredibly rude” and “unacceptable.”

The countries reached an agreement in 2015 to settle the comfort woman issue, but the government of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who came to power in 2017, concluded that the deal failed to reflect the opinions of surviving victims.

Seoul dissolved a Japanese-funded foundation that had been set up as a key pillar of the deal and had disbursed money to dozens of former comfort women.

The move, along with South Korean court decisions ordering compensation for forced labor during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and Tokyo’s tightening of trade controls against Seoul, has seen relations sink to the lowest point in years.

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