NEW YORK — South Korea on Tuesday mentioned the issue of "comfort women," a euphemism referring to Korean women who were forced to provide sexual services for Japanese soldiers during the war, at a human rights panel session of the U.N. General Assembly, calling on the United Nations and all of its members to provide remedies and reparations for victims of sexual violence during armed conflicts.
South Korea "is deeply concerned with increasing sexual violence against women in armed conflicts, with particular reference to systematic rape and sexual slavery, including the so-called comfort women," Ambassador Shin Dong Ik said in the assembly's third committee at the U.N.
While the ambassador cited "comfort women" as those who were forced into sexual slavery for the military during the war, he did so without mentioning Japan. South Korea also called for "bringing the offender to justice."
Japan, for its part, reiterated its position that the compensation issue was settled by a bilateral treaty in 1965 that normalized diplomatic relations between the two countries.
The issue of reparations, property and claims concerning the war "has been legally settled," said Kazuo Kodama, Japan's deputy ambassador to the U.N., in his speech at the committee.
Japan "recognizes that this issue was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of a large number of women, and has extended its sincere apologies and remorse to all those known as wartime comfort women who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds," Kodama said.
He also said, "Japan has been facing up to its past with sincerity and consistency since the end of World War II."
Shin rebuffed Japan's claim and said, "My government would like to make clear its position that the issue of comfort women, which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, has not been settled by bilateral treaties.
"Therefore, legal responsibility of the Japanese government remains effective," he said, adding that Seoul hopes Tokyo will soon join proposed bilateral consultations to resolve the issue.
The South Korean Constitutional Court ruled in August that it is unconstitutional for the South Korean government to make no specific effort to resolve the dispute with Japan over its refusal to directly compensate the women for their sexual enslavement during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Following the ruling, South Korea has stepped up activities on the issue.