|National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang speaks at a gathering with Korean residents at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C., Monday, local time. Yonhap|
National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang said Monday his remarks calling for the Japanese emperor to apologize to victims of sexual slavery were to emphasize the importance of "a leader making a sincere apology."
Moon's response came after Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono said the lawmaker needed to be careful with what he was saying
In an interview with Bloomberg last week, Moon said Japanese Emperor Akihito apologizing for the atrocity while holding the hands of elderly sex slave victims would resolve the issue.
He also referred to Akihito as "the son of the main culprit of war crimes."
Akihito's father Hirohito was the emperor during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule over Korea, when the Japanese military sexually enslaved mostly Korean women.
"The remarks came in the context of emphasizing a sincere apology from a leader in an important position," he told reporters in Washington. Moon is leading a delegation of lawmakers on a U.S. trip ahead of a second summit between Washington and Pyongyang later this month.
Moon added, "Japan has stated it has apologized numerous times, but I don't think it has."
Meanwhile, regarding Moon's call for the apology, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday he was "extremely shocked" to hear this, calling it "extremely inappropriate."
After the Bloomberg interview was published, Japan's Ambassador to South Korea Yasumasa Nagamine protested about the remarks to First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun.
The dispute comes at a time bilateral relations have reached the lowest point in decades, due to issues relating to the countries' colonial history.