Japan has issued a public apology to South Korea and will now compensate the country with $8.3 million for what is described as the use of ‘comfort women’. These are women that were made to work in brothels that serviced Japanese military men during the second world war.
A meeting took place Monday between Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and counterpart for South Korea Yun Byung-Se. The agreement was announced shortly after this meeting.
It is hoped that the apology along with the compensation will help to improve the strained relationship between the countries that remain due to Japan’s occupation of South Korea during the war.
It is not quite clear how many women were forced into service as sex slaves by the Japanese but estimates have been given that start at 20,000 and have been as high as 200,000. What is clear to see however is that the affected women that are still alive are very old.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye reports that nine of these women had died within the last year and that 46 known survivors still live in South Korea. The president went on to express her sympathy for these elderly women as well as her hopes that the agreement would bring some comfort to them.
One reason it has taken so long for these talks to happen is that the two countries are not in agreement on whether or not Japan has already made amends for their actions. The Japanese government has been adamant that the payment of $800 million in 1965 to South Korea in the form of grants and loans was the settlement in this issue. South Korea does not agree with this position.
A Monday statement made by Kishida said that the $8.3 million that his country is pledging is with the intent to restore the dignity of the women. This is a position that some of these women have publicly criticized.
One survivor, Lee Yong-soo expressed doubts while speaking with the BBC as to whether the feelings of the victims were even a consideration when the talks took place. Lee explains that she and other surviving ‘comfort women’ are not after money and that if the Japanese government are sincerely apologetic for their sends that apologies and reparations should be made directly to the women.
The BBC confirmed that others shared Lee’s sentiments and that many of them are wanting a formal apology from the Japanese government addressed directly to them along with some form of direct compensation. The BBC reports also that many of the women have expressed skepticism at the sincerity of at the expressions of regret given by the Japanese government.
It should also be noted that a report by the Korea Herald indicates that Japan and South Korean may still not be in agreement over whether Monday’s statement meant that Japan is accepting legal responsibility for its actions against South Korean comfort women. Another dispute is whether South Korea would remove a statue that is representative of the women and their suffering that is located not very far from the Japanese Embassy in the city of Seoul.