Japan and South Korea have agreed to move forward with their 2015 “comfort women” agreement as both sides finally agree to shuttle diplomacy, as they had previously agreed to do. The agreement stands to finally resolve the issue of Korean comfort women and can also serve as a foundation for future bilateral ties, which can then be used as the two countries work together to place pressure on North Korea and their nuclear missile plans.
The two countries share a deep, long, and sordid history that even moved into bitter territory. During the years of 1910-1945 Japan began colonizing the peninsula of South Korea. During that time, Japanese men often used what they referred to as South Korean comfort women, a fancy euphemism for women who were forced to work in wartime brothels. Numerous comfort women stories have surfaced over the decades of how the Imperial Japanese Army, who occupied territory in South Korea prior to World War II, forced both women and girls into sexual slavery. The number of women who suffered this fate varies by accounts but numbers range from 20,000 to as high as 410,000. While the majority of the women were believed to have been Korean, other comfort women testimonies have come from women who hailed from China and even the Philippines. These women were held at “comfort stations”, which was simply a fancy term for brothels, and these stations could be found in Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, East Timor, and Vietnam. It is believed from the stories that have been told that these girls and women were abducted from their homes which were located in countries that fell to Japanese rule, some were even lured with promises of work in factories and restaurants, but once they were in the hands of the Japanese they were incarcerated in these stations in order to provide “comfort” to the Japanese soldiers as they headed into war.
A deal that was established in 2015 between Japan and the previous ruler of South Korea included an apology from Japan to all the women who were enslaved as well as a 1 billion yen, which translates to about $9 million, fund in order to aid the women. Originally, South Korea agreed to the deal, which seemed quite favorable, then decided that the agreement was quite favorable to the needs of the victims. They then requested more steps from Japan in order to make amends with these women. Japan, who felt as though the deal was more than fair, agreed to meet with the South Korean leader at the Olympic Winter Games. He was firm in stating that the deal would not be changed by even one millimeter then went on to demand that South Korea should go so far to remove the numerous comfort women statues that are not only found in South Korea but also other countries like Germany, Australia, Kyodo and the United States of America.
Despite their differences in feelings, the men met and for the sake of diplomacy and their countries, decided to respect the original agreement. Not only that, but the two also agreed to hold a trilateral summit that would include not only Japan and South Korea, but also China. The countries agree that for the moment, it was vital that they maintain a unified front in order to apply pressure to North Korea in hopes that they can convince the country to abandon their nuclear missile programs. These two countries appear to be taking the steps necessary to secure a working future together.