South Korea tells Noda to examine the past


South Korea called on Japan’s new government Tuesday to “look squarely” at the past, following disputes this month over contested islands and comments by the incoming prime minister.
“We expect to continue to forge mature and future-oriented relationships with the new Japanese government led by Prime Minister Noda as it looks squarely at its past,” said Seoul foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-Jae.
Japan’s parliament earlier approved former finance minister Yoshihiko Noda as new prime minister, making him the country’s sixth leader in five years.
A decades-old dispute between South Korea and its one-time colonial ruler was rekindled this summer when Japan reaffirmed its claim to disputed islands off Korea’s east coast.
The Seoul-controlled islands are known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan. Seoul this month banned four Japanese legislators from travelling to a South Korean island near Dokdo to renew their country’s claim on the territory. Noda also sparked a diplomatic spat with South Korea this month by saying that Japanese “Class A” war criminals honoured at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine were in effect not criminals.
Seoul’s foreign ministry responded that the comments were “inappropriate remarks that deny Japan’s imperialist invasive past and fail to conform with the Japanese government’s official position”. Japan’s harsh rule over Korea lasted from 1910 until its World War II defeat in 1945.
South Korea’s Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday in favour of former wartime sex slaves battling for government help in claiming compensation from Japan. Historians say more than 200,000 women from Korea and other countries were forced to work as “comfort women” in military brothels used by Japanese troops during the war.
Japan has apologised for the military’s involvement in crimes against the women but insists the offences were committed privately rather than on behalf of the state. The issue has long proved an irritant in relations between Japan and its neighbours.
The court ruled that the Seoul government had violated the rights of the women by making no effort to take on Japan over its refusal to compensate them.
Civic groups welcomed the decision saying it would pave the way for official negotiations between Seoul and Tokyo over compensation.