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S. Korea to urge Japan to hold talks on wartime sex slaves

Sept. 23, 2011 - 14:58 By

SEOUL, Sept. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's foreign minister plans to call on his Japanese counterpart this week to accept a proposal by Seoul to hold talks on the issue of compensation for Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japan's World War II soldiers, a Seoul official said Friday.

Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with his Japanese counterpart Koichiro Gemba on Saturday in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

It will be the first time that Kim and Gemba have met face-to-face since the Japanese minister took office early this month.

South Korea proposed talks with Japan last week on the issue of the Korean victims, euphemistically called "comfort women," following a ruling by the Constitutional Court that it is unconstitutional for the Seoul government to make no specific effort to settle the issue with Tokyo. Japan has not responded to the proposal.

It is one of the most emotional issues that still remains unresolved between South Korea and Japan. The Korean Peninsula was under a brutal Japanese colonial rule from 1910-45.

"During the talks with Minister Gemba, Minister Kim plans to urge the Japanese government to accept the proposal and take the issue seriously," the foreign ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.

Japan has acknowledged that its wartime military used sex slaves, but refuses to directly compensate the victims individually, arguing that the issue was settled by a 1965 normalization treaty with South Korea.

The relations between Seoul and Tokyo have often frayed over issues stemming from Japan's colonial rule of Korea, including Japan's territorial claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo or its attempt to gloss over wartime atrocities.