By: Do Je-hae

Hundreds of Japanese historians on Monday called on their government to resolve historical differences with Korea ahead of the 50th anniversary of normalization of bilateral relations which falls on June 22.

Wada Haruki, an emeritus professor at Tokyo University, and 280 other scholars issued a joint statement marking the landmark diplomatic occasion.

“This is high time for both countries to resolve the issue of comfort women,” the statement said. “It is clear that the Japanese government was behind the establishment of military brothels. The Japanese government must admit its responsibility.”

“Abe should deliver a message of remorse and apology, reaffirming Japan’s invasion and colonial rule of many Asian countries, including Korea, China and other neighboring countries, caused damage and agony for people there.”

The issue of comfort women, referring to female victims of sexual slavery for the Japanese imperial army during World War II, has hampered bilateral relations.

The Japanese scholars called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to honor previous apologies issued by Japan’s leaders, including Yohei Kono in 1993, Tomiichi Murayama in 1995 and Naoto Kan in 2010.

In August, Abe will deliver a speech on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Many Koreans are hoping he will include an apology for Japan’s wartime atrocities.

Haruki will be in Korea on June 12 to participate in a symposium on historical issues between Korea and Japan hosted by the Korean History Research Association.