The nations of Japan and South Korea entered into a historic agreement on December 28, 2015, pertaining to Japanese usage of Korean “comfort women” who were exploited sexually during a wartime occupation.
The Japanese government has issued a formal apology and provided one billion yen to compensate surviving South Korean comfort women and the families of these women that are previously deceased.
South Korea, for its part, agreed to consider the gesture on the part of Japan as a settlement to issue and said it would begin talks with civic organizations pertaining to the possibility of removing a statue in the likeness of Korean comfort women that is located near the entrance of the Japanese embassy.
The agreement did receive opposition from the general public in South Korea and civic groups erected new statues including one that was placed outside the Japanese Consulate in Busan and another in San Francisco of the United States.
In January, Moon Jae-in, The newly elected president of South Korea also voiced his displeasure with the agreement saying that the agreement fails to both adhere to principles of justice and take into account viewpoints of the victims of the heinous activities. Jae-in did not make calls to void the agreement but did express his sentiment that more sincere apologies were in order.
Many close to the subject believe that the ongoing animosity present in the South Korean public over the matter of comfort women stories is due to a false narrative that was given today. South Korean schools still today teach that more than 200,000 women were abducted by the Japanese Military. This account is contrary to what members of the Japanese government consider to be the true history of the matter.
An investigation conducted in the 1990’s determined that women from its former colonies were not forcibly introduced to becoming a sex worker by the Imperial Military. The report did acknowledge however that there were women from countries involved in military disputes with Japan that were abducted illegally by Japanese soldiers.
Japan maintains that comfort women testimonies indicate that the women performed work in brothels entertaining Japanese soldiers did so for reasons like earning money for their families, leaving the home of their parents, deception by brokers and recruiters.
Analysts say that much harm has been done to the relationship between the nations of Japan and South Korea due to activists that want to frame the actions of the Japanese military in the worst light possible and also pressure surviving women with first-hand experiences in wartime brothels to go along with the narrative.
It has also been noted that the complicity that existed among South Korean citizens with regards to mobilizing women at brothels has been eliminated from recent rhetoric. One example of this is the case of former comfort woman Kim Hak-Sun. In her own words, Hak-Sun was taken, along with another young woman, to China where he worked as a comfort station manager. Later, when reporting on her account, the Korean Council omitted any mention of Hak-Sun’s father working as a comfort station manager.
The abduction narrative is based on the testimony of 16 of the registered 238 surviving comfort women still alive in the 1990’s who said they had been abducted. Of the 46 survivors still alive in 2015, 34 of them were accepting of the compensation offered to them. The Japanese government considers it unfortunate that the South Korean media only chose to concentrate on the 12 women that rejected the gesture.
South Korean comfort women who in the past had expressed a willingness to forgive for Japan were often vilified as traitors and some were even denied government subsidies.