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Japan, South Korea officials discuss ‘comfort women’ issue in Seoul

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo

South Korean and Japanese officials met Wednesday for their first round of talks since an agreement by the nations’ leaders to seek a prompt resolution of a dispute over women and girls forced into wartime sexual slavery.

The talks were aimed at moving forward an agreement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Park Geun-hye last week on trying to resolve the long-stalled row over women — many of them from the Korean Peninsula — who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.

After Abe held talks with Park in Seoul on Nov. 2, their first one-on-one meeting, Abe told reporters: “With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties, we agreed to accelerate negotiations with the aim of concluding them as early as possible.”

Abe made no specific commitment during his summit talks with Park, but later stressed that both sides had an obligation to leave no “obstacles for future generations.”

Japan was represented by Kimihiro Ishikane, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and South Korea by Lee Sang-deok, director general of the Northeast Asian Affairs Bureau.

After the meeting, Ishikane told reporters that he tried to seek common ground with his counterpart because the issue has been an obstacle in the development of bilateral ties.

Asked when the next meeting will be held, Ishikane replied: “We will coordinate it as soon as possible.”

South Korea has demanded that Japan settle the issue in a way acceptable to the women still alive, such as through an apology and compensation. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.

Japan maintains all matters of compensation were settled under the 1965 bilateral treaty that normalized diplomatic ties.

Tokyo wants Seoul not to keep raising the issue in the future once an agreement is reached. It also wants South Korea to remove the statue of a girl in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul that has become a symbol of the comfort women issue.

The director general-level talks to discuss the comfort women issue began in spring 2014, but they have been stalled since July due to a dispute involving the UNESCO World Heritage listing of historical industrial sites in Japan.

South Korea initially opposed the listings, but the sites were eventually added to the list after Seoul withdrew the opposition on condition Japan publicly acknowledge that Koreans had been coerced to work at some of the sites during World War II.

  • Liars N. Fools

    The reason the Director General level talks have stalled is because the Abe administration has modified the Kono Statement out of existence, saying there is no “corroborated evidence” and that it was just a “diplomatic agreement” with no basis in fact. Meanwhile Japan has mounted a “everybody had comfort women” or “Korean girls were prostitutes” campaign.

  • Forest2014

    Teitaikyo and overseas ethnic Koreans are the problems than Korean Govt.
    There is nothng Japan should really do any longer. Just leave it alone

  • Jackson Clark

    Why does a newspaper put comfort women in quotes? Poor journalism at best, extreme bias i am sure

  • Jackson Clark

    Why does a newspaper put comfort women in quotes? Poor journalism at best, extreme bias i am sure

  • Chris Carino

    Park made it an issue and the main platform of her administration..

  • 99Pcent

    Nothing wrong with dialog, rather the more dialog we have the better because it brings about reconciliation. However it does not mean that the Koreans are right or have the moral upper ground, they should not mistake Japan willingness to communicate as admission.

  • 99Pcent

    Nothing wrong with dialog, rather the more dialog we have the better because it brings about reconciliation. However it does not mean that the Koreans are right or have the moral upper ground, they should not mistake Japan willingness to communicate as admission.

  • Richard Solomon

    If Abe wants to resolve this issue with Park, he’s going to have to take some concrete steps to make amends. These include things like meet with and apologize directly to surviving Comfort Women, offer them reparations out of the Japanese government coffers, and build memorials/statues in public places to honor them. Ie, official, government sanctioned acts of contrition will have to be made. Will Abe’s pride as a Japanese and the grandson of a former member of the military government allow him to do these kinds of things?

  • Richard Solomon

    If Abe wants to resolve this issue with Park, he’s going to have to take some concrete steps to make amends. These include things like meet with and apologize directly to surviving Comfort Women, offer them reparations out of the Japanese government coffers, and build memorials/statues in public places to honor them. Ie, official, government sanctioned acts of contrition will have to be made. Will Abe’s pride as a Japanese and the grandson of a former member of the military government allow him to do these kinds of things?

  • 99Pcent

    At least Japan acknowledged the issue of some comfort women being forced into a form a sexual slavery and have made moves to compensate and apologize. However, in some weird sort of lacking of thinking the Korean leader Park has decided to reignite the whole saga by making the whole issue a priority of her leadership. She has to have a chip on her shoulder, is it her father? Whatever, as an outsider I do not judge the present day modern Japanese people to be responsible for what their ancestors did and after all they have apologized and compensated for crimes committed all over Asia and not just Korea.
    On the other hand what has Park done to compensate the victims of Korean aggression and rape in the Vietnam war??? Nothing, that is the answer. Around 400 thousand Korean soldiers went to Vietnam and the majority of them committed crimes. This is well documented and not fantasy.
    Now I come to a conclusion: This must be hypocrisy in the most extreme, to ignore the action of your own people and sweep it under the carpet but at the same time to cry cry cry about what happened decades before even after apologies and compensation.
    I just think that Korea’s leader wants to pull Japan down by using imperial Japans crimes as an excuse to forward the Korean economy. What a loser!

  • CaptainAsia

    Wow! this are a lot of great comments going on here. There is a great discussion going on showing that there are multiple views from many parties. This is called dialog and this is why they Japanese and the Korean diplomats are engaged in discussion at the moment.
    If each party realized a bit of truth in respective arguments it would be really good. There are some comments that cut through the middle and those are the good ones. On the other hand, to vehemently stick to ones own side only is a bit of failure.

  • Editor_in_Charge

    I want peace between all of us. Japan, USA, Korea etc….. But what Park is doing is really really wrong. LOL. I think we no longer have to be in Korea anymore as Park is kissing up to China so much. Now our mission is over, we should withdraw and let Park deal with KIM JOng you know who. Park has blocked us from deploying Thad, than means if China decides to ICBM USA we will not have a chance to shoot those missiles down. Korea has betrayed us and they just want to appease China. Instead Park is wasting huge amounts of money on staining Japan and Abe which she seems to have adopted as a personal enemy of sorts. Park’s interests do not reflect the greater interests of the Korean democratic nation at all. I really feel that Japan is trying their best under the circumstances, IE: China and Korea together at military Parade in Beijing, how terrible is that, what message does that send?
    I know Japan has already apologized many times and given so much money to Korea, why they act like this??? LOL Are Korean under a media propaganda in their country? LOL

  • Forest2014

    South Korea’s official documents have showed that under the treaty the Park Chung-hee administration actually agreed never to make further compensation demands against Japan, either at a government or individual level, after receiving US$800 million in grants and soft loans from Tokyo as compensation for its 1910-45 colonial rule.
    silly excuse.
    Read not only 1965 treaty but also appendix.
    Now its all your turn. 2 wrongs don’t make a right. Right? don’t you ever try to make
    silly excuse.