On Tuesday, the Japanese government urged South Korea to live up to its promise of implementing the comfort women deal. This came about as South Korean’s new Foreign minister met with her Japanese counterpart in Tokyo during an official visit. The South Korean government has in the recent months raised questions with the deal hence making it one of the top agenda for their meeting including North Korea’s nuclear program. The comfort women testimonies have been heard throughout Asia for years.
The Tuesday meeting between the two foreign ministers comes amidst Moon’s visit to China a few days ago. During his visit, the South Korean president sought more cooperation with the Chinese government where he emphasized about reviewing the comfort women’s deal with Japan and the need to dialogue with North Korea about their nuclear program. His comments were received with suspicion amongst most politicians from Japan.
Kang Kyung-wha‘s two-day visit to Tokyo is viewed by many as a way of showing that South Korea has not completely taken sides with China. The two foreign ministers reiterated that their countries were working closely to monitor the situation in North Korea. Nonetheless, their efforts are being tainted by the Korean comfort women deal together with a plethora of issues surrounding Japan’s occupation of South Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.
Is the Deal Workable ?
In 2015 Japan closed a deal with Park Geun-hye who was later impeached in a bid to try and amend a strained relationship between South Korea and Japan. There had been such efforts made earlier although they did not bear any meaningful results. In the deal with Park, Japan was to acknowledge the involvement of its military in prostitution business within the formerly occupied territory. Prime minister Abe even went ahead to issue an apology and a trust fund was also established to support the victims.
On her part, South Korea was to declare that the matter was resolved and it could no longer be reversed. The deal was supposed to bury the hatchet between the two neighbors and help them focus on building a prosperous future together. However, it did not take long before voices of opposition began to echo from South Korea. Most of the victims, as well as human rights groups, were not happy with the deal terming it a slap on their faces. They urged the South Korean government to renegotiate the deal so that all the victims together with their families are duly compensated and accorded respect by the Japanese government.
Although there have been a lot of pull and push between the two groups, there are hopes that the comfort women deal could soon be implemented in full. The official visit by the South Korean foreign minister on Tuesday is a clear indication that there is goodwill regarding the whole process. Doubts had been expressed by several countries such as the United States as to whether the deal would be implemented by South Korea considering the recent opposing remarks from various quarters.
Apparently, the South Korean ministry of foreign affairs has formed a task force which will review the terms in the comfort women deal and give recommendations. It is upon those recommendations that the South Korean government will make the final decision as to whether to modify and implement or to scrap the deal all together. The report is supposed to be published by December, 27th.
The Japanese government on its part says that they are hopeful that South Korea will put the interest of the region first and the importance of their relationship as they review the terms of the deal. Besides, the international community has also urged South Korea to ensure their relationship with Tokyo is not strained by the comfort women agreement.