Korean Comfort women testimonies have earned a significant amount of press in the past decade. An agreement was made between Japan and the United States back in 2015 on the subject. Its main aim was to resolve the issues surrounding the victims and what happened to them during the Second World War. These discussions were left open, and earlier this year in June, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, John Sullivan and his Japanese equivalent, Shinsuke Sugimaya discussed the details of the 2015 deal and concluded that the deal should be implemented in order to strengthen ties between the two countries. This was done ahead of a meeting to be held by the America’s President Donald Trump and Korean Principal Moon Jae-in in Washington, D.C.
The implementation has been accepted more by Japan than South Korea, however. The South Korean comfort women stories are still a sensitive issue, and according to the incumbent South Korean leader, his people are not happy with it. He stated that Park Geun-hye who was the South Korean President before him was conservative and that is why the agreement was made in the first place.
In contrast, the international community values the 2015 agreement, the United States being at the top of this list. Sugimaya told Sullivan that they are keen on implementing the deal and mending relations with South Korea. He said this at a press briefing as he spoke to reporters about these and other talks that were going on at the State Department.
South Korean’s stand on the Korean comfort women comes after years of back and forth between the two countries until December 2015 when the agreement was finalized. These women also wanted a public apology for what happened to them. The Japanese government, wanting to put tension between the two countries to rest and partly make it up to the South Korean ‘comfort women,’ issued a public apology in 2007.
Japan has complied with the initial requirements of the agreement, and in 2016 disbursed ¥1 billion to a fund set up by the South Korean government that went to the victims and their families. They also reiterated their 2007 apology for the suffering and the sad comfort women stories that the women went through.
The South Korean government, on the other hand, has remained adamant that the deal did not accurately reflect their voices and their suffering. During his election campaign, Moon vowed to resolve this by renegotiating the terms of the deal to be more inclusive of the women.’
During the talks between Sugimaya and Sullivan, Sugimaya assured him that both Japan and South Korean had made important first steps in strengthening their foreign relations with one another. He also assured Sullivan that Tokyo wants nothing more than to extend an olive branch and create closer ties with South Korea. The two also addressed North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments and agreed that both countries need to make sure North Korea does not succeed in its efforts. One of the solutions to this was by applying sanctions to North Korea. They agreed that it had to be a collective effort between the two nations.
China is one of North Korea’s biggest economic and diplomatic beneficiaries, and Sugimaya and Sullivan agreed to pressure China to help hinder North Korea’s efforts.
It is expected that the comfort women agreement will proceed forward as the best solution to the issue for both countries. Sugimaya stressed that Japan has done its main role in the agreement, and is now looking forward to moving past the issue and improving relations with South Korea.