SEOUL – The South Korean author of a much-discussed book on “comfort women” is calling for broad-based talks between Japan and South Korea to seek a resolution on the women, who were forced into prostitution for Imperial Japanese soldiers.
In a recent interview, Park Yu-ha, a professor at Sejong University, said she wanted to emphasize in her book the importance of recognizing there were many types of women and “comfort stations,” or brothels, for soldiers, during the war.
The title of the book can be translated as “Comfort Women of the Empire,” to use Japan’s euphemism for the thousands of victims.
Statues of girls symbolizing comfort women, including one in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, are the result of efforts to throw light on only one aspect of what is a truly multifaceted issue, Park said.
This approach is “problematic” because it leads to a failure to face up to the reality of Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, the professor said.
Park welcomed the many reviews that have been written on her book, saying the South Korean media received it in a sincere way.
Until recently, South Korea lacked opportunities to think about the issue because of disagreements between right and left, but the situation may be changing, she said.
Asked how the issue should be resolved, Park said the Japanese and South Korean governments should start discussions with a preset deadline of six months or a year.
These talks should involve former comfort women, support groups excluding extremists, and experts on the issue, she said.
“The discussions should be open to the public” to allow past efforts by Japan, including the setting up of a government-assisted special fund for the victims, to be fully known to South Koreans and for the voices of South Koreans to be heard better by Japanese, she said.
People in both countries find too much fault with each other, by making use of the increasing flood of information from improvements in communications and machine translation technologies, Park said.
Some Japanese are hurt because they have a perception that South Koreans continue to speak badly of Japan internationally, while other Japanese cannot stop justifying Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, she pointed out.
“Dialogue is important,” Park said. “When you talk, you come to understand the other side better.”