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Moon berates Japan over history at March 1 ceremony

March 1, 2018 - 10:36 By Choi He-suk
President Moon Jae-in on Thursday berated Japan for its handling of the sex slavery issue and its claims to Korea’s Dokdo islets, calling on Tokyo to “face the truth of history and justice.”

In his speech at a ceremony marking the 99th anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement, Moon focused on history and outstanding issues between Seoul and Tokyo. 


“Dokdo was the first Korean territory to be seized in the process of Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula. It is our territory. Japan denying this is no different to (Japan) refusing to admit to the wrongs of imperialistic invasion,” Moon said.

The Dokdo islets are South Korea’s eastern-most territory, which Japan claims as its own and accuses Seoul of illegal occupation. The islets have long been a thorny issue in Korea-Japan relations, and tensions over the issue came to a head following former President Lee Myung-bak’s visit to the islets on August 2012.

The visit, the first by a serving president of South Korea, raised strong objections from Japan and deteriorated relations between the two countries.

President Moon Jae-in gives a speech at the event marking the 99th anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement in Seoul on Thursday. Yonhap

Moon went on to berate the Japanese government for its stance on the issue of wartime sexual slavery of Korean women. Saying that Japan’s claims that the matter has been resolved does not make up for crimes against humanity, Moon called on Japan to face history.

“Japan must be able to squarely face the truth of history and justice with the universal conscience of humanity. I hope Japan will be able to genuinely reconcile with its neighbors on which it inflicted suffering and walk the path of peaceful coexistence and prosperity together.”

The Japanese government denies that Korean women were forced into sexual slavery for its military during the 1930s and 1940s. Tokyo has also called on the Moon administration to adhere to a controversial 2015 agreement that was signed by the Park Geun-hye administration. The current administration has deemed it unfair and insufficient in making amends to the victims. 

Japan immediately hit back saying that Moon’s statement was “extremely regrettable.” 

“The comfort women issue was resolved finally and irreversibly through the 2015 agreement. Moon’s comments are against the agreement, and cannot be accepted,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a regular press briefing. 

Suga also said that his government “strongly protested” the comments through diplomatic channels.

At the event held at Seodaemun Prison History Museum, which was used by Japan to imprison independence fighters and activists, Moon also highlighted independence activists’ sacrifices, and once again voiced his administration’s view on the foundation of the Republic of Korea. 

Since taking office in May 2017, Moon has stressed on a number of occasions that South Korea’s roots go back to the provisional government launched in 1919. Conservatives, however, argue that the country was officially founded in 1948.

“The biggest achievement of the March 1 Independence Movement is the establishment of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in accordance with the declaration of independence,” Moon said. On March 1, 1919, Korean activists declared independence from Japan’s occupation.

“The Constitution of the Provisional Government clearly states that the Republic of Korea is a democratic republic, and that sovereignty resides in the people. That is now Article 1 of the Constitution.”

He went on to say that the country’s name and the national flag stem from the provisional government, established in China’s Shanghai.

Saying that the candlelight demonstrations of 2016 and the March 1 movement share the same spirit, Moon went on to outline plans for a facility commemorating the provisional government that will open in 2020. According to Moon, the facility will be dedicated to everyone who yearned for independence from Japan, and the government will continue to work to shed light on the history of the independence movement.

By Choi He-suk (