The quest to resolve the comfort women stories
For more than two decades, the relationship between South Korea and Japan has not been a smooth ride. The citizens of the two countries seemingly not looking at each others’ eyes too. All these stems the back to early 1940s during the Pacific war that Japan allegedly took a significant role in the comfort women stories.
That act has gone down to the heart of South Korea and even caused a shift in her politics. In as much as talks have been underway to bring the comfort women testimonies to an end, setbacks have been cracking the walls of the efforts to do so. From both ends of the negotiation table, issues have been arising that stall the process.
On 28th December 2018, the Foreign affairs ministries of South Korea and Japan sat to create what they called “final agreement” to the comfort women stories. Part of the resolutions was to have Japan take the guilt of their imperial soldiers on the women of South Korea.
In the same agreement, the Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzo Abe, sent relentless apologies to the government and the people of South Korea. Japan seems to do well in the struggle to swallow their pride over the matter. Abe also pledged a one billion Yen grant to facilitate a foundation that would support the comfort women testimonies.
However, there have been technical issues on the whole 2015 agreement that the impeached President of South Korea, Park Geun-Hye, and the Prime Minister of Japan put on the ground. The pressures from the ordinary citizen through activists and politicians have staggered the process big time.
Factors that hamper the 2015 final agreement
From the political aspect, the activists in South Korea feel Japan is in the shadows of protecting her interests. The activists cannot trust what Japan puts on the table is to the benefit of South Korea but for bilateral strategy.
Japan is at the center of crucial business and does not want to take things to chance. That is how the political class of South Korea views her. Besides, Koreans feel Japan seems to have little to do with the acknowledgment of the atrocities.
The speech that Shinzo Abe made at Upper House of The Japanese Diet triggered a mixed reaction by the Koreans. He seemed to have echoed what the political class of Japan has put their feet on the ground over the comfort women stories. The insisting of non-existing proof of the atrocities of the Japanese military to the comfort women testimonies slows, even more, the implementation of the 2015 agreement.
However, a keen eye on the position of the Prime Minister reveals his nationalistic nature. He comes out as a man who wants to promote a harmonious regional relationship not only for Japan but also for South Korea and other Asian Countries.
The existence of statues seems to torture the image of Japan bilaterally and internationally. For instance, the statue at the Japanese Embassy, Seuon, does not go down well with the Japanese government. There are more statues across Korea that the citizens are commemorating the comfort women testimonies.
Many countries across Asia, including China and Philippines, borrowed the leaf of erecting statues for the comfort women stories. The United States has statues as well. So, Japan will be at ease to implement the 2015 agreement should South Korea pull down the statues and especially at her Embassy.
The two seem to harm the coming to rest of the comfort women stories. In another view, the impeached president appears to have his fate aligned to the 2015 Agreement. The only opposition party, Minjoo, insisted that the bargain between Mr. Park and Abe needed to be renegotiated to make a more credible and working solution.
President Park meeting the Prime Minister of Japan was one big step on its own. She had vehemently chosen not to have any relations with Japan. The move affected many other relationships including the relationship between South Korea and the United States. By agreeing to have a consensus which Abe termed as the final, irreversible agreement was a big boost to the bilateral relations.
As stated earlier, Japan agreed to dig into its budget for one-time funding to the foundation that South Korea would later run. The significant role of the foundation according to Abe’s full statement was to psychologically heal the women who suffered physically, emotionally, and mentally and help them restore their dignity.
In the statement, Shinzo Abe also sighted that both governments will keep off from criticizing one another at the international communities and even at the United Nations platforms not only over the comfort women stories but other relational matters.
The 2015 agreement is set to be a new era for Japan and South Korea. It is the prayer of Shinzo Abe to end the comfort women stories once and for all, and it should not be dragged to the coming generation.
50% of the population of Japan has said yes to the deal. The remaining people will take time perhaps through intervention to find the need of resettling. For all this time, what one gets from the comfort women testimonies is that support was a matter of urgency, what South Korea took too much time to resolve with the Japanese government.
After the signing of the 2015 Agreement, Japan has begun to enjoy business relationships with other countries like China and India. Most of the Asian countries had shut their doors to Japan because of the comfort women stories.
Most of the women in South Korea who served as the “comfort women” are advanced in age and have lived in desperate situations all this while. With the funding from the Japanese government, there shall be a relief. They are hopeful that both their medical and financial conditions will be taken care of by the foundation.
The current President of South Korea, the caretaker government, is in the limelight by the international community to see it put into consideration the 2015 agreement. Even though the current government may place more demands which are not yet official, the progress is worth applause.
The primary stakeholders in the matter of comfort women are the citizens who will determine the dimension things will take. For the good of the bilateral relationship between the Japanese and Korean people, the agreement needs to have more stimulation to put it into effect.