The relations between South Korea and Japan continues to improve as the issue of “Korean Comfort Women” takes center stage. The main issue surrounded the lack of support, acknowledgement and movement regarding a very painful time in South Korean history. The positive
During WWII, a number of Korean women were forced to work in brothels for the pleasure of the Japanese military. This issue has been a source of contention between the two countries for decades. Thankfully, the Japan Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and South Korean Prime Minister Park Geun-hye have reached a tentative agreement to resolve the issue once and for all.
The long and grueling process — played out before the public — was thought by South Korea to be the first step in normalizing relations between the two countries. While Prime Minster Abe and his supporters were a bit frustrated in the beginning, they have found a way to move forward.
In a statement released by Japanese Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio, Prime Minister Abe expressed his heartfelt apologies to the women who were deprived of their dignity and honor. Abe went on to say that the psychological wounds are incalculable, and Japan will accept full responsibility.
The deal, which requires Japan pay 1 billion yen, or $8.3 million U.S. dollars, to support an organization set up to help support comfort women. The irreversible deal will remain in tactas long as both parties abide by the rules set forth and refrain from public criticism.
Outside the Seoul Embassy is a bronze statue of a girl that symbolizes the suffering of the comfort women. The monument, which has strong public support, is sometimes a source of contention with some Japanese. Sympathizers feel that the statue should be acknowledge for its symbolization of the comfort women’s suffering.
Another part of the deal is a zero-tolerance policy against Japan cabinet members making provocative and false comments regarding the women. When conservative lawmaker Sakurada Yoshitaka suggested that the women were not forced and were actually prostitutes by choice, the entire talks were nearly derailed. Eye-witness testimonies over the years have proven this to be untrue.
While the talks were conducted in private, some of the women felt that they should have had more of a voice in the process. While the situation was a bit precarious at one point, officials on both sides believe that Japan will honor its side of the deal. However, the biggest obstacle is the Korean comfort women signing off on the deal.
While there are only a few dozen comfort women left alive to give their testimonies, it is still a very important story. These women should be honored for their bravery and perseverance. As it stands right now, Prime Minister Park is doing his best to make sure the deal goes through without any setbacks. After many decades of talks, both sides have seemingly called a truce on the issue.
While the harm to the comfort women cannot be undone, the money given to the foundation can make their remaining days a lot easier.