President Park Geun Hye Expected to Address Comfort Women Issue with Shinzo Abe

David Lee, Oct. 29, 2015, 9:28 a.m.

President Park Geun-hye appears likely to press Japan to take "sincere steps" to address the issue of the elderly South Korean women who were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japan's World War II soldiers, a presidential official said Thursday.

The issue has long been one of the key sticking points in bilateral relations for years. The matter has gained urgency in recent years as the victims are dying off. In 2007, more than 120 South Korean victims were alive, but the number has since dropped to 47, with their average age standing at nearly 90.

South Korea demands Japan acknowledge its responsibility for the sex slaves, while Japan insists the issue was settled under the normalization treaty of 1965. Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910-45.

South Korea has repeatedly said the bilateral relation can move forward if progress is made in resolving the issue. Park could make the case for the resolution of the issue when she meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday, the official said. The planned meeting would be the first bilateral summit between leaders of the two neighbors in more than three years.

Still, it remains unclear if Park and Abe can produce any breakthrough in the issue during their summit. Seoul and Tokyo have held a ninth round of working-level talks on the issue, though no major significant progress has been made yet. Park's immediate predecessor -- Lee Myung-bak -- clashed with the Japanese prime minister on the issue of the sex slaves during their summit in 2011.

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