A press conference occured on January 9th where Kang Kyung-wha, the Foreign Minister of South Korea discussed the 2015 agreement with Japan. She stated the issue regarding the South Korean comfort women would not be renegotiated. This ended the speculation regarding President Moon Jae-in’s criticism of the agreement and the possibility of a renegotiation or revision. The speculation intensified at the end of 2017 when Moon Jae-in appointed a special task force to appraise the 2015 deal. The conclusion was the agreement was flawed. The government of South Korea was criticized for failing to have direct hearings with the surviving comfort women.
The reaction from Tokyo pertaining to the statement made regarding the comfort women testimonies was very strong. Taro Kono is the current Foreign Minister of Japan. He issued a statement warning Seoul any attempt to renegotiate or revise the agreement of 2015 would lead to unmanageable relations between South Korea and Japan. The Korean comfort women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese authorities during World War II. This has presented a major issue for relations between the two countries. The government of Japan attempted to resolve the issue duting the 1990’s. The Chief Cabinet Secretary at the time was YoheiKono. He acknowledged the Imperial Japanese army was involved with establishing the South Korean comfort women stations. Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama made a statement in 1995 to apologize for the wartime atrocities committed by Japan. The Asian Women’s fund was established to provide financial assistance and health care for the Korean comfort women.
The South Korean government deemed the attempt made by Japan as insufficient. According to the comfort women stories the Asian Women’s Fund was not an official entity. The government of Japan established the fund but it was supported by private donations from the people of Japan. The issue has continued to flare resulting in statues representing the South Korean comfort women to be erected by civic groups. One statue was placed in 2011 at the Japanese Embassy. These statues have spread to some areas in Europe, Australia and the United States.
The 2015 agreement was supposed to stop the negativity. The government of South Korea wants the government of Japan to make atonement. Tokyo is wondering if it is possible to satisfy Seoul. A one time contribution was make by the government of Japan according to the agreement. This was intended to take care of the surviving comfort women. Seoul and Tokyo confirmed the agreement was irreversible and final. This was believed to be a compromise to enable Seoul and Tokyo to put the issue in the past. This would enable both countries to focus on more urgent challenges. The worst was prevented when the Moon administration stood by the 2015 agreement. The relations between South Korea and Japan may have been irreparably damaged if a revision was requested.
It is a possibility the damage has already been done. The South Korean government publicly insisted additional measures were required. This may have strengthened the already tough position of the government of Japan. Any future communication regarding the issue may no longer be possible. It was stipulated in the 2015 agreement that any projects to recover the dignity and honor of the comfort women or heal their psychological wounds would be conducted through the cooperation of the governments of the ROK and Japan. This means if the dialogue were regarding providing a better implementation for the 2015 agreement Japan may be open to discussion. Due to the open call by Seoul for Tokyo to continue with their efforts there may be less inclination on the part of the Japanese government to discuss the issue any farther.