Japan and South Korea may have settled their long-running dispute about “Comfort Women.” Tokyo issued a “heartfelt apology” with 1 billion yen to the elderly former sex slaves.
A personal apology from Japan’s prime minister and a pledge of 1 billion yen has been offered to South Korea to resolve a decades-long impasse about the forced use of Korean women into Japanese military-run brothels during World War II. The countries reached the agreement on Monday, and may have finally ended the dispute over the wartime sex slaves. Terming it as a “new era” in ties with Seoul, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might have ended one of the few, but critical, issues that have long plagued the relations between the two countries.
There have been numerous attempts to end the 70-year-old dispute. Despite an agreement signed in 1965, as well as an apology in 1993, South Korea has been persistent in claiming that Japan hasn’t done much for the tormented souls. At the heart of issue was the compensation that Seoul claimed was owed by Tokyo. In fact, the issue of compensation for the so-called comfort women has long been a road-block for cooperation between the two nations, reported the Daily Caller.
Despite forking out about $800 million way back in 1965, Japan has pledged to contribute $8.3 million to a fund set up to help a few of the victims of the forced sex-trade during World War II, reported Yahoo. Currently, there are 46 victims who are still alive. The country hopes the compensation extended will finally put the issue to rest, said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“I feel we’ve fulfilled the responsibility of the generation living now. I’d like this to be a trigger for Japan and South Korea to cooperate and open a new era.”
The countries did try and achieve “normalized relations” in 1965, but South Korea has always maintained that Japan never truly apologized for the treatment meted out to the women, who have been collectively called the Comfort Women. Moreover, Seoul has always held a grudge over Tokyo’s forceful occupation of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945. The issue of Comfort Women has long been a very sensitive one, and many South Koreans have strongly rejected previous apologies from Japan. There have been persistent demands for Japan to take legal responsibility for the women.
The exact number of women forced or lured into prostitution isn’t clear because many have remained silent about their shameful ordeal. However, many experts claim close to 200,000 women from several Asian countries like, Korea, China, Philippines, and some from European countries as well, were either tricked or forced to work at military brothels between 1932 and 1945. Japan has never denied that these Comfort Women worked as prostitutes, but time-and-again has insisted that they were paid well-paid and “earned more than an average prostitute would earn.”
However, Monday’s historic deal, notwithstanding the seemingly generous compensation, is a strong indicator about the changing attitudes of Tokyo’s conservative government and a new willingness to compromise by previously wary Seoul, reported Japan Today. A statement jointly released by by both countries’ foreign ministers said as follows.
“Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.”
Most of the women in South Korea who served as Comfort Women are now in their 80s and 90s. Some of them have refused the compensation from Japan, stating they felt ignored in the deal, reported Washington Post.
Incidentally, the United States has been pushing South Korea and Japan to resolve issues like that of Comfort Women for a long time. The countries are America’s close allies and are needed to counter China’s growing influence in the region.
[Photo by Jung Yeon Je/Getty Images]