News

Japan, South Korea Agree to Aid for ‘Comfort Women’

Deal will include support services using Japanese government funds

By Kwanwoo Jun in Seoul and
Alexander Martin in Tokyo
Updated Dec. 28, 2015 1:45 p.m. ET

South Korea and Japan reached an agreement that aims to resolve a decades-old dispute over Korean women who were used as sex slaves by Japanese soldiers during World War II, a festering wound that has inflamed tensions between the U.S.’s two most important allies in Asia.

Under the accord, Japan will supply ¥1 billion ($8.3 million) in government funds to support the so-called comfort women. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also apologized for the women’s treatment, something he had been reluctant to do previously.

The wartime issue has long strained ties between the two neighbors and caused concern in Washington. “We must not let this problem drag on into the next generation,” Mr. Abe said in Tokyo after the agreement was announced in Seoul.

The U.S., which sees better relations between the two countries as key to checking China in the region, welcomed the deal. “We applaud the leaders of Japan and the Republic of Korea for having the courage and vision to reach this agreement, and we call on the international community to support it,” said Secretary of State John Kerry.

The agreement involved concessions by both sides. Japan has previously maintained that all issues of compensation to South Koreans for the war were resolved when it restored diplomatic relations with Seoul in 1965. In the current deal it edged away from that position by agreeing to fund a South Korean foundation to aid the women forced into servitude, while also insisting the money didn’t represent direct compensation for wrongdoing.

By apologizing, Mr. Abe also went further than his government has previously. The prime minister made a direct apology, expressed both in a statement by his foreign minister and in a telephone call with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

“Prime Minister Abe expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women,” the statement said.

The statement also acknowledged Japanese government involvement in the comfort women program, a point Mr. Abe and conservatives in his ruling party have frequently questioned.

Still, some in Korea called Mr. Abe’s statement inadequate. The Korean Council for Women Forced Into Sexual Slavery, which represents some former sex slaves, said the agreement didn’t make clear enough that the recruitment of the women “was a crime done by the Japanese government and military systematically.” It said Japan should directly compensate the women instead of creating a fund to do so.

The council also objected to Seoul’s promise that it would consider removing a statue of a girl in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul that commemorates the women’s suffering. Tokyo has called the statue an affront.

The group called the deal “humiliating” and said Seoul “gave a bushel and only got a peck [of returns in the agreement].” Some comfort women told Korean media they would accept the compromise.

Read Source Article on The Wall Street Journal website

1 comment

  1. Archie Miyamoto, Lt Col, U.S. Army (retired) Miyamoto served twice in Korea during the Korean War, and during his second tour in Vietnam served with the Korean Tiger Division. He spent two tours as a military advisor in Taiwan, his second as an advisor to says:

    I welcome and support the Prime Minister of Japan’s apology and the signing of the agreement with South Korea to bring final resolution to the comfort women issue. While South Korea may have entered into this in good faith, it appears unable to overcome opposition and fulfill its obligations to comply with the spirit of the agreement and is seeking refuge in the fine print. This, of course, places the entire agreement at risk which is very unfortunate given the dangerous situation presently facing South Korea.

    Koreans find fault with Japan’s apology since it does not acknowledge military or government involvement in the recruitment of comfort women. U.S./Allied military records of WWII, which include the interrogation of Korean comfort women and their operators, identify the women as prostitutes under contract, usually one year, with their operators. Operators were civilians and not employees of nor paid by the Japanese military or government. Military involvement consisted of checking credentials and setting the conditions under which the women would be allowed to conduct business. The military provided transportation, medical treatment, and saw to it that the operators shared earnings equally with the women. Upon repayment to operators of loans advanced to the women and termination of contract, the military provided the women return transportation to their homes. Prostitution at the time was legal and accepted.

    There are no records of abduction of Korean comfort women. Korea was an annexed part of Japan, not occupied territory. Policemen in Korea were Koreans and there were hundreds of thousands of Koreans in the Imperial Japanese Army, some estimate as many as half a million, many as officers and even a few generals. There were even a few kamikaze pilots. Abduction of Korean women would not have been prudent or even possible unless Korean men are all meek cowards. To even hint at that is an insult.

    The issue is now an internal problem for the Korean government to resolve with the Korean people. Koreans must wake up to reality. There is nothing to be gained by making an enemy of Japan or in turning American public opinion against Japan. Without the U.S.–Japan alliance, U.S. defense of South Korea would be very costly if even possible. A nuclear-armed North Korea is ready to pounce at any sign of weakness. Because of Korea’s warming up to China, American attitude is changing and an increasing number of Americans are calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Korea. Also, there is considerable opposition in Japan against improving Japan’s cooperation with the U.S. in the defense of other than Japan and anti-Korean sentiment is at an all-time high. It is imperative that Koreans put the comfort women to rest and join hands in a solid U.S.-Korea-Japan Alliance or it risks once again becoming a killing field.

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