SEOUL--Japan’s “heartfelt apologies” will be needed to bring the long-standing “comfort women” issue to a “complete resolution,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said at his first news conference of the year on Jan. 10.

Formally withdrawing his presidential election campaign promise to seek renegotiation of the 2015 agreement with Japan over the issue, the president, who took office in May, defended his decision not to renegotiate the deal.

Describing it as the “official” agreement between the previous South Korean government and the Japanese government, he said, “Even if we don’t find it sufficiently satisfactory, we must choose the best option available realistically.

“(The comfort women issue) will not be resolved simply by demanding renegotiation.”

“Comfort women” is a euphemism for those who were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers before and during World War II. Many were from the Korean Peninsula, a former colony of Japan.

Since the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s Jan. 9 announcement not to pursue renegotiation, some of the former comfort women and support groups pushing to scrap the accord have already expressed frustrations over Seoul’s new policy.

Tokyo and Seoul announced the deal in December 2015 to resolve the issue “finally and irreversibly,” but it became the target of criticism from the public as well as the surviving victims as being “unfair” to South Korea.

Moon continued to say the comfort women issue should be resolved based on the “principles of truth and justice,” noting the agreement is flawed.

“If Japan acknowledges the truth, offers heartfelt apologies to the victimized women and works with the international community to prevent a recurrence based on a lesson it learned, the women then will forgive Japan,” he said. “That is a complete solution.”