Comfort women deal cannot erase victims' pain

By Zhang Jingwei
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, January 7, 2016
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South Korean former "comfort woman" Lee Yong-Soo (L) makes a gesture of protest at South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-Nam (not pictured) during his visit to a shelter for women, who were forcibly recruited to work in Japanese wartime military brothels, in Seoul on December 29, 2015. (AFP/Jung Yeon-Je)

On December 28, Japan and South Korea reached a deal to solve the issue of South Korean women forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops during World War II.

The South Korean and Japanese foreign ministers held talks on the issue in Seoul. According to the "final and irreversible" agreement, Japan acknowledges the involvement of the military regarding this issue and therefore feels a sense of responsibility. Japan promises to provide 1 billion yen (about 8.3 million U.S. dollars) to an assistance fund set up by the South Korean government.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye held telephone talks after the two countries' foreign ministers reached the agreement. During the talks, Abe offered an apology and expressed remorse to the South Koreans who once served as "comfort women."

With the apology and promised compensation, it looks like the issue may befinally resolved. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Reconciliation has been reached between the governments, but the former South Korean comfort women remain unimpressed. They think the governments' rashly rushing through the issue is disrespectful, and some South Korean media outlets have denounced it as the country's diplomacy of humiliation.

For those former comfort women, a real reconciliation would involve a sincere apology from the Japanese government, that is, Japan should acknowledge the fact that comfort women were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese military and government and that Abe should sincerely apologize to every survivor.

Politicians forged the deal via diplomatic conciliation from a broader strategic viewpoint. But for the former comfort women, the painful experience is unforgettable and incurable. A plain diplomatic parlance and insincere apology offer little; even the compensation is almost useless for the aged victims.

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