Shino Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, reiterated the disagreement his country has with the 2015 agreement made with South Korea regarding ‘South Korean comfort women. The Prime minister expressed his sentiments while on the phone South Korean President Moon Jae.
Despite disagreeing on the matter, Abe did, however, say that both sides agree on the need for the two nations to develop a present relationship that focuses on the future. These words were echoed by Moon while making opening remarks when the two attended a meeting in Pyeongchang, the South Korean city that was host to the 2018 Winter Olympics.
South Korea and Japan are both parties to a bitter history including the colonization of South Korea by Japan for a 35 year period that began in 1910. During this time Japan made use of comfort women, a term used to refer to women that were forced to perform duties as brothel workers.
The conflict over the issue has been renewed in recent months and has served to create great tension between the two countries who are America’s key allies in the Asian region. The discord is at an inopportune time as the two countries, along with America, have been working together to tackle the problems posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.
Under the terms of the 2015 agreement, that was reached before both Abe and Moon were in the respective positions, Japan made a formal apology to form South Korean comfort women and paid reparations of 1 billion Yen to provide aid to any surviving women that were affected by the wartime policies. The reparations paid were the equivalent of nine million U.S. dollar.
Many South Koreans have expressed discontentment with the agreement and said that more should be done to right the past wrongs of Japan. Officials in Japan have been adamant in their position that the agreement is to remain unchanged.
Abe, while speaking with reporters immediately following his meeting with Moon, said that the agreement made between the two nations has finally served to put the issue to rest. Abe went on to say that the agreement made by the two nations is the foundation of the new bilateral ties that now exist.
The decision made by Abe to attend the Winter Games angered many of the more conservative members of the Japanese government that have pledged their support to him. Despite this, Abe publicly stated that the agreement made between South Korea and Japan will not be altered ‘one millimeter.’
Abe has also made public demands for South Korea to remove statues representative of Korean comfort women that have been constructed in South Korea and several other nations that include the United States, Germany, and Australia.
Moon speaks with great passion when discussing the many horrible accounts he has been exposed to while examining comfort women testimonies. Moon goes on to say that these comfort women stories provide information of damage far greater than can be solved by simple gestures between the two nations and that both countries should accept a greater responsibility at helping to heal the wounds that these women have suffered.
A human rights committee convened by the United Nations in 2014 requested that Japan provide greater classification as to what comfort women truly are and requested that the term is replaced by the term ‘enforced sex slave.’
Moon and Abe were both able to agree that it is best for both countries to set aside any differences and take part in summit meetings that include China. Abe also stated that he and Moon were in agreement that a strong front must be forged between the two nations along with others in Asia to thwart the nuclear threat presented by North Korea.