President of South Korea, Moon Jae-In, recently characterized the 2015 agreement made between his country and Japan regarding the South Korean comfort women that were forced to provide services in brothels during World War II as being “seriously flawed.” The statement by Moon came following a warning by Japanese officials that any attempts to revise the agreement would bring with them serious damage to the relationship between the two countries.
A panel set up by the South Korean government to investigate the agreement came away with the conclusion that the deal was unsuccessful at meeting the needs of the countless women and girls of all ages that were forced to work in brothels. Many of these women were Korean and referred to as Korean comfort women.
The tension over the matter that still exists between the two countries is problematic because the efforts of both are needed to address the growing threat that exists at the prospect of North Korea furthering its attempt to develop a nuclear arsenal.
Moon expressed that the deal is a political agreement that does not properly address the comfort women testimonies that have saddened so many. Moon went on to say that the deal is not in congruence with the ideals of general society.
A spokeswoman for the Japanese Foreign Ministry explained that Japan had made its sentiments known regarding the statements made by Moon through South Korean channels of diplomacy. The spokeswoman also repeated earlier warnings from Taro Kono, the Japanese Prime Minister, that any moves to alter the terms of the agreement would cause serious damage to relations between the two nations.
When pressed on whether or not Moon was seeking to void the agreement, a spokesperson for the president said that it would not be appropriate to use such a term to characterize the president’s position.
Japan gave a public apology to comfort women as part of the 2015 agreement and contributed 1 billion Yen, an amount slightly less than $9 million value in U.S. currency. At the time of the agreement, both sides stated that the matter would be permanently resolved.
The comfort women stories have been a regular source of discontent between Japan and nearby neighbors including both North and South Korea, as well as China. Japan colonized the entire Korean peninsula for a 35-year period beginning in 1910 and was able to take control of portions of China before and during the Second World War.
The continued fallout of the Japanese colonization of the Korean peninsula is still a highly sensitive issue with South Koreans, but many of the more conservative members of Japanese society deny that any South Korean women were forced to work in Japanese brothels.
Moon is a liberal that became president in May following the removal of former president Park Geun-Hye from office due to charges of corruption. The Park regime had faced great criticism due to the agreement as many feel they should have taken the time to consult the surviving Korean comfort women before agreeing to a deal.
Moon, while campaigning to become president of South Korea, promised to renegotiate the deal that was made between the two countries.