For over a century now the “comfort women stories” have been a straining topic for both South Korea and Japan. Finally in 2015 the controversial topic was settled between the two countries and laid to rest. During a visit to South Korea for the Winter Olympic games this past February Japanese Prime Minister Abe discussed the importance of the agreement between Japan and South Korea with the South Korean President Moon Jae-in and how important it was for the 2015 agreement that closed the issue of comfort women that had long created friction between the two and how it was finally a promise between the two asian countries that would strengthen their ties and strengthen their future relationship.
During the Japanese colonization of South Korea that spanned from 1910 until 1945 the euphemism used by Japanese for South Korean women forced to work in wartime brothels was Korean comfort women. Over the years the comfort women testimonies were very disturbing and ignited a feud between the 2 countries. In 2015 the two countries reached a deal where Japan would apologize to the South Korean comfort women as well as provide a billion yen (equivalent to $9 million US dollars) fund that would help the women. This deal was agreed on by former predecessors of both countries current president and prime minister.
Earlier in this year the South Koreans stated that they felt the agreement did not meet the needs of the victims and would like to see more steps taken to do so. Japan wants to assure that the good ties between the two countries remain on good terms and that the original agreement should not change since it finally resolves an old issue and remains a promise between the 2 countries that is a foundation for a good relationship that should not be altered in the least bit.
Wanting to bad history behind both countries Japan request that South Korea remove statutes of the Korean comfort women from their country that depict the oppression they experienced. Allies of South Korea such as Germany, Australia and the United States also have erected statutes and the Japanese would like those removed as well. The agreement was intended to mend the wounds from that era and the Japanese Prime Minister feels as though these statutes undermine the agreement and serve as a reminder of the bad past between the two Asian countries. South Korean President Moon feels that the damages to the victims were very emotional and a simple exchange between the two governments cannot completely resolve that damage so both Japan and South Korea need to continue their effort to heal.
The comfort women testimonies moved the U.N. Human Rights Committee in 2014 to request that the Japanese clear up the fact that “comfort women” were actually enforced sex slaves and that should be recognized by discontinuing the euphemism.
All though they have different perspectives on the issue, Japanese Prime Minister Abe and South Korean President Moon continue to work together with diplomacy and will be holding a 3 way summit between China, Japan and South Korea very soon in efforts to unite on the issue of dealing with the North Korean nuclear weapons program. The countries all agree that pressure must be kept on North Korea to abandon their nuclear program and missile development.
Both the United States and Japan are concerned that South Korea may not provide the necessary pressure needed on their neighbors to the north. As long as Japan and South Korea continue to mend their relationship and strengthen ties then China and the US can feel positive about the united effort to keep North Korea in check.