The end of World War II may be over 70 years ago but the issue of the Korean comfort women remains one the nation of South Korea is looking to solve with the former occupying power of Japan. During World War II, the Japanese military occupied the nation of Korea and forced many young women to work in brothels who would later become known as the Korean comfort women.
It had been thought, the issues surrounding the end of World War II and the comfort women had been handled through a deal between South Korea and Japan brokered by the former Prime Ministers of the two nations in 2019. Comfort women testimonies were heard prior to the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe admitting his country’s part in the atrocities committed during the occupation of World War II and created a foundation to care for the comfort women involved.
Current South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called into question the legality and compensation agreed for the comfort women following the impeachment of the former President Park Geun-hye. The lack of transparency seen in the leadership of Park Geun-hye has resulted in the majority of his policies being examined for their legitimacy including the work to ensure the protection of South Korean comfort women. With tensions high on the Korean Penninsula throughout 2015, the need for close ties between Japan and South Korea led to the development of the agreement regarding Korean comfort women in a bid to maintain the strength of opposition toward North Korea.
The changing look of life on the Korean Penninsula has resulted in a shift in partnerships over the last year, with South Korea growing closer to North Korea’s traditional ally, China. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and Japanese counterpart Taro Kono are set to meet in the coming days before a trilateral summit between South Korea, China, and Japan takes place in the coming weeks.
Problems were seen following comfort women stories and the signing of the agreement almost as soon as the deal was announced with complaints flooding in about the pact with Japan. Many believed this would be a new start for the two nations as the symbolism of letting go of the past would show a united front against the hostile nation of North Korea. For many in South Korea, the issue of South Korean comfort women remains an important one with the unresolved nature of the issue of the brothels operated by Japanese forces during World War II one which should not have been ended in such a limited way. Even the development of a fund designed to maintain the future of the women could not placate some who felt the issue was being mishandled by South Korean leaders.
The issue of South Korean comfort women looks set to come to a head in December 2018 when the Foreign Ministry of South Korea will announce the results of an inquiry into the issue of the women. The release of the report will be used by South Korean President Moon Jae-in as the basis of his decision about whether to keep, end, or amend the agreement with Japan in the coming years. In the course of the coming years, the pact between Japan and South Korea will become more important as the thawing of diplomatic ties between both North and South Korea is impacted by the close ties the South maintains with both Japan and China.