By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
SEOUL, South Korea – President Moon Jae-in of South Korea raised concerns on a landmark agreement made with Japan in December 2015 dealing with wartime sex slaves. The new South Korean president stated that the agreement is unfair.
According to the deal, the Japanese government agreed to provide $8.3 million to help “comfort women” and for Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime Minister, to offer his “most sincere apologies and remorse.” It was also agreed that both countries will not criticize each other on this issue in the international society.
The issue of “comfort women” has been an ongoing controversy between these two countries. Although the exact numbers are unknown, the authorities believe that around 200,000 women were forced to serve as sex slaves when Japan took control of Korea in 1910.
Lee Ok-seon, now age 90, spoke about the time when she was captured by the Japanese military. In 1942, at the age 15, Lee was grabbed by men in uniform and was forced to work in a brothel in a Japanese-occupied area in China. As the survivors age and die, Lee remains as one of the last “comfort women.”
Former “comfort women” and many of their supporters have been protesting outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. In 2011, a group erected a bronze statue of a seated woman outside the Japanese embassy. Back in January of 2017, the Japanese government withdrew diplomats from South Korea after the same statue was erected in the city of Busan arguing that such action violated the 2015 agreement.
The victims believe that the apology made by the Japanese Prime Minister does not go far enough. Moreover, the polls show that the majority of Koreans believe the 2015 agreement to be unfair.
South Korean president, Moon Jae-in spoke with Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime Minister, and discussed the common threat posed by North Korea. Although President Moon stated that the people of South Korea “cannot emotionally accept the comfort women agreement,” he was clear that the issue should not affect the relationship in finding ways to respond to North Korea.
On June 7, Kang Kyung-wha, President Moon’s pick for foreign minister said during her confirmation hearing that she seeks to renew discussions over the 2015 agreement with Japan.
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