‘Comfort Women’ Issue Continues To Plague Relations Between South Korea And Japan — Countries To Meet And Discuss Compensation

Officials from South Korea and Japan are expected to discuss the issue of “Comfort Women.”

Senior diplomats of South Korea and Japan met on Saturday ahead of another round of talks that will be attended by their foreign ministers to discuss the issue of Comfort Women, a shameful legacy of Japan’s wartime past that has continued to strain the relationship between the two countries. South Korea has been quite persistent that Japan has still to make proper amends regarding the deployment of innocent women as sex slaves during World War II.

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se dismissed Japan’s claim that the issue of Comfort Women, who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II, was settled in a 1965 agreement on normalizing relations, reported GMA News Online. Senior representatives of both the countries are expected to meet on Monday to continue the talks hoping to find an amicable solution. However, given South Korea’s insistence that Japan hasn’t done much, will remain a bone of contention.

Japan has always insisted that that the dispute was settled way back in the 1965. Back then Tokyo had paid about $800 million in grants or loans to South Korea in lieu of the humiliating treatment of its women during World War II. However, Seoul claims the treaty does not cover compensation for victims of wartime wrongdoing. The country claims Japan hasn’t given any compensation for the Comfort Women. Moreover, Seoul maintains that the treaty signed in 1965 doesn’t absolve Japan of its legal responsibility.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry confirmed that the country’s Foreign Minister, Fumio Kishida, will be meeting his South Korean counterpart, Yung Byung-se, in the South Korean capital, Seoul, on Monday. Evidently, Kishida has been ordered by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has tasked Kishida with finding a prompt solution to the highly controversial and disputed issue, reported NSNBC International.

Interestingly, the two countries have been trying to improve relations ever since the Japanese Prime Minister met South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye last month, reported Channel News Asia. Apparently, the countries are also under pressure from the United States. America has long insisted that Seoul and Tokyo should be able to get along well and must address the issues that can be settled through mutual understanding.

Who were the Comfort Women? The Japanese government and military recruited a large number of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, and European women who served as prostitutes to the Japanese soldiers. Though there have been persistent claims that the women who served at “Comfort Stations” were abused, Japan insists that these prostitutes were well-paid and “earned more than an average prostitute would earn.”

Meanwhile, protesters claim that hundreds of Koreans, sometimes barely legal girls, too, were forced into prostitution for Japan’s military brothels during World War II. There have also been claims that many of the girls were lured with false job promises. The girls were taken away from their homes with promises of better jobs. But instead of serving as nurses or hospital assistants, these girls were forced into prostitution.

Japan has never denied the existence of Comfort Stations and Comfort Women. The country even admits there were isolated instances of mass-rapes. In fact, in 1993, Japan issued a landmark 1993 statement that expressed “sincere apologies and remorse” to the women “who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.”

However, Shinzo Abe reignited the debate by openly questioning if these Comfort Women were actually “forced” against their free will. Outrage protestors claimed he was trying to justify the abuse of the women and absolve Japan’s misdeeds.

South Korea has remained adamant that Japan has yet to make proper amends for its shameful wartime past and 1910-45 colonial rule. With the series of meetings, which might result in some additional compensation, perhaps the row over Comfort Women might come to an end.

[Photo by Jung Yeon Je/Getty Images]