Former ‘comfort women’ are asked by South Korean officials to accept accord with Japan

AFP-JIJI, Kyodo, JIJI

South Korean officials met former wartime “comfort women” Tuesday to seek support for a landmark deal with Japan, amid criticism Tokyo has not fully atoned for its treatment of the women forced into the brothels run by the Imperial Japanese military before and during World War II.

Japan on Monday offered a “sincere apology” and a ¥1 billion aid fund for the aging survivors that is to be set up by South Korea, under an agreement which both sides described as “final and irreversible.”

The plight of the women has been a hugely emotional issue in South Korea and has marred relations with Japan for decades.

Officials of both nations hailed the deal as a breakthrough. But South Korean media and the women themselves had a mixed response, taking issue particularly with Tokyo’s refusal to accept formal legal responsibility.

Seoul’s vice foreign ministers visited two comfort women shelters Tuesday to seek the victims’ support — a step that will be key to securing popular approval.

But some of the women expressed anger, accusing the officials of complacency and of hastily wrapping up negotiations.

“The matter has not been settled. We didn’t fight for all these years to see the result like this,” frail survivor Kim Bok-Dong, 89, told Vice Minister Lim Sung-nam at a Seoul shelter in televised comments.

The long-time campaigner was lured to leave her village at age 14 with a promise of a factory job, and was forced to serve in military brothels in China and Southeast Asia.

Lim said the government had tried its best to achieve some form of justice — albeit compromised — “before too late” as most victims are at an advanced age.

Observers said it is not yet known how many surviving comfort women will approve of the deal, and that the accord may become a major issue dividing public opinion in South Korea.

On Monday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye issued a statement to the nation seeking the understanding of the victims and the public at large for the agreement.

“As for Japan’s historical wrongdoings, I ask you victims and the people to understand the agreement in view of efforts to improve relations between South Korea and Japan and from a broader perspective,” the message said.

“The agreement has resulted from utmost efforts made to work out an agreement as quickly as possible under the situation in which only 46 victims are alive after nine died this year,” she said in the “message to the people” posted on the website of the presidential office.

“Through the agreement, sufferings of the victims should be clearly remembered in the hearts of our descendants and a similar occurrence should never be repeated in our history,” Park added.

The ruling Saenuri Party welcomed the agreement, praising Tokyo’s explicit expression of responsibility.

In stark contrast, the leading opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy criticized Japan for failing to take responsibility and stressed that the agreement is unacceptable.

The party claimed that Park deviated from her basic promise to resolve the issue in a way acceptable for both the victims and the public.

  • Liars N. Fools

    The perfect is the enemy of the good, and this agreement is, in my view, very good indeed because of the official apology, the official acknowledgement of responsibility, and the official contribution of the Japanese government. While the ROK will make efforts to have the comfort girl statue removed from the front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, the Korean government also noted that it did not have the power to order the civil organizations to do so. And yes there will be idiots among Japanese politicians who will continue to be revisionists, but a lot of air will be taken out of their sails by the acknowledgment by Abe Shinzo of the moral correctness of the stance by the war time sexual slaves.

    • Richard Solomon

      I agree that this deal may be the best that can be brokered. I also agree that there will always be people and organizations which will find some flaws in any agreement that does not meet their particular expectations. Ie, ethnic hostilities between some Koreans and some Japanese will not stop with an agreement like this one. In fact, some of these indicpviduals’ hatred for the other side might be inflamed for awhile because of their sense of injustice.

      Can Park convince these 46 women and their relatives that they should accept these terms? Would Abe offering to meet with them in order to apologize face to face make a difference? Would he have the courage to face these people?!?

      • Liars N. Fools

        There was once a so-called Sasae plan. Current Japan Ambassador to Washington Sasae was a Deputy Foreign Minister, and under the DPJ administration he was tasked with formulating ideas part of which involved the Japan Ambassador in Seoul visiting every survivor with a signed apology note from the Japan PM. The plan did not get very far, and the re-emergence of Abe put an end to it while the hostility of the Lee Myung-bak administration got hotter because of the Japanese reluctance to take what he considered to be easy steps.

        This was not about the amount of money so much as about the source of the money. Rightfully the money needs to come from the Japanese government, because the budget process makes it law and not merely an utterance. That makes the money be reparations or atonement, words that grate at the revisionists who don’t believe in the concept.

        Ironically, my reading of the situation is that revisionists in Japan are hoping to fan anti-agreement sentiment indirectly in Korea, while a lot of activists in Korea are happy to “fight to the end” to stop anything short of ….. what I am not entirely clear.

        Certainly the appearance of Abe Shinzo to apologize directly would be salutary. Ambassador Bessho should contemplate following the Sasae plan, even if not required by the agreement. Then, there could be a simple gesture of having, say the Political Counselor of the Embassy come out and lay a remembrance in front of the comfort girl statue in front of the Embassy.

      • Liars N. Fools

        There was once a so-called Sasae plan. Current Japan Ambassador to Washington Sasae was a Deputy Foreign Minister, and under the DPJ administration he was tasked with formulating ideas part of which involved the Japan Ambassador in Seoul visiting every survivor with a signed apology note from the Japan PM. The plan did not get very far, and the re-emergence of Abe put an end to it while the hostility of the Lee Myung-bak administration got hotter because of the Japanese reluctance to take what he considered to be easy steps.

        This was not about the amount of money so much as about the source of the money. Rightfully the money needs to come from the Japanese government, because the budget process makes it law and not merely an utterance. That makes the money be reparations or atonement, words that grate at the revisionists who don’t believe in the concept.

        Ironically, my reading of the situation is that revisionists in Japan are hoping to fan anti-agreement sentiment indirectly in Korea, while a lot of activists in Korea are happy to “fight to the end” to stop anything short of ….. what I am not entirely clear.

        Certainly the appearance of Abe Shinzo to apologize directly would be salutary. Ambassador Bessho should contemplate following the Sasae plan, even if not required by the agreement. Then, there could be a simple gesture of having, say the Political Counselor of the Embassy come out and lay a remembrance in front of the comfort girl statue in front of the Embassy.

      • TV Monitor

        Richard Solomon

        Can Park convince these 46 women and their relatives that they should accept these terms?

        45 out of 46 already rejected this deal, so no.

        Would Abe offering to meet with them in order to apologize face to face make a difference?

        No.

        Would he have the courage to face these people?!?

        No.

      • TV Monitor

        Richard Solomon

        Can Park convince these 46 women and their relatives that they should accept these terms?

        45 out of 46 already rejected this deal, so no.

        Would Abe offering to meet with them in order to apologize face to face make a difference?

        No.

        Would he have the courage to face these people?!?

        No.

    • TV Monitor

      Liars N. Fools

      While the ROK will make efforts to have the comfort girl statue removed from the front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul

      This is already ruled a legal impossibility. The statue is fully permitted, and is under the jurisdiction of the city, not the central government, whose mayor opposes this deal. Two judges who were asked to give a legal opinion on the relocation case agreed that there was no legal basis for such a move, even if the case went to a trial. In other word, the statue stays where it is.

      Knowing this impossibility, the Korean government only offered to discuss the possibility of the relocation with the organization that put the statue as a voluntary basis, but that organization already said no.

  • Bernadette Soubirous

    F-O-X news (October 13)

    President Park should publicly apologize for South Korea’s sexual violence in Vietnam

    This week’s state visit by South Korean President Park Geun-hye presents an opportunity to assess the strength of the alliance between our two countries. At the same time, it presents an obligation to challenge our ally when its behavior does not fully align with American values.

    The United States as a country has a strong legacy of embracing mistakes and atoning for them. President Park should embrace this uniquely American value and publicly apologize to the thousands of Vietnamese women who were forcibly raped by troops under her father’s command during the Vietnam War.

    • KenjiAd

      The United States as a country has a strong legacy of embracing mistakes
      and atoning for them. President Park should embrace this uniquely
      American value and publicly apologize to the thousands of Vietnamese
      women who were forcibly raped by troops under her father’s command
      during the Vietnam War.

      This is one of the funniest jokes FOX spit out.

      No, the US, like any other countries for that matter, doesn’t have a “strong legacy of embracing mistakes
      and atoning for them” when it actually matters. When did they apologize to people in Iraq? Did they apologize to people in Vietnam, too?

  • Bernadette Soubirous

    F-O-X news (October 13)

    President Park should publicly apologize for South Korea’s sexual violence in Vietnam

    This week’s state visit by South Korean President Park Geun-hye presents an opportunity to assess the strength of the alliance between our two countries. At the same time, it presents an obligation to challenge our ally when its behavior does not fully align with American values.

    The United States as a country has a strong legacy of embracing mistakes and atoning for them. President Park should embrace this uniquely American value and publicly apologize to the thousands of Vietnamese women who were forcibly raped by troops under her father’s command during the Vietnam War.

  • CaptainAsia

    I want more money, gimmie more money, more money.

  • 69station

    “They want a direct apology and they want the Japanese government to acknowledge that the entire thing is their fault.”

    Which is what they got.

    • 99Pcent

      But it is not the fault of the Japanese government. There is a clear distinction between Modern Pacifist Japan and the Imperial Japan.

      • TV Monitor

        99Pcent

        That distinction is not clear between Imperial Japan and Abe’s Neo Militant Japan.

      • 69station

        Correct, but the Japanese government effectively gave it anyway. The Koreans will not get more, and shouldn’t.

    • 99Pcent

      But it is not the fault of the Japanese government. There is a clear distinction between Modern Pacifist Japan and the Imperial Japan.

  • Ahojanen

    Former comfort women are now victims of politicization driven by Teitaikyo 挺対協, a radicalised anti-Japanese association, or let’s say, an extortionist in disguise of a women support group. Teitaikyo has been responsible for making the issue too complicated to resolve.

    All in all, a ball is now on the ROK’s court. No single penny out of a 1 billion proposal from Japan won’t be necessarily paid if the ROK fails to convince Teitaikyo and (comfort women) hostages on agreement. Let’s wait and see.

    • TV Monitor

      Ahojanen

      No single penny out of a 1 billion yen proposal from Japan won’t be necessarily paid if the ROK fails to convince Teitaikyo and (comfort women) hostages on agreement.

      And that’s fine with the ROK side. 45 out of 46 comfort women rejected this deal, the opposition party declared this deal null and void, and the 67% of polled oppose this deal, the figure reaches as high as 89% in the younger generation.

      • Ahojanen

        Go ahead, I don’t care. It’s now a domestic issue in ROK.

      • Ahojanen

        Go ahead, I don’t care. It’s now a domestic issue in ROK.

      • TV Monitor

        Ahojanen

        It too will be a Japanese issue when the ROK officially submits the joint application of listing comfort women records at the UNESCO Memories of the World next year. The ROK government officials insisted this agreement didn’t cover activities by private entities so the listing application will go ahead.

      • Ahojanen

        I am sure that deceptive ROK will submit the application regardless of the deal :) How many times ROK leaders have lied to its people the agreement with Japan is “final and irreversible” or “future forwarded”? Since 1965, and no single ROK president has failed to breach :D

        Take or leave, that’s a Korean question. No matter what comes, the latest deal will bother President Park. Another failure would only demonstrate to the world that it is ROK who has pulled the legs.

      • TV Monitor

        Ahojanen

        I am sure that deceptive ROK will submit the application regardless of the deal :)

        The inevitable comfort women denial by some Japanese rightwing government official constitutes a breach of this agreement too. At least in case of the ROK submission of the Comfort Women records to the UNESCO, it can be argued that the government’s hands are clear since it is the private entity that’s doing it.

      • Ahojanen

        Go ahead, I don’t care. It’s now a domestic issue in ROK.

  • Liars N. Fools

    Some perspective is in order. The 1965 normalization treaty package was and is still not “accepted” by some Koreans even though it provided vitally needed resources for Park Chung Hee to create the “miracle on the Han” that catapulted Korea into being a leading, dynamic country. J.P. Kim, who started the negotiations secretly at the behest of Park, was forced to resign.

    Kim Dae Jung, the first progressive Korean president, issued a joint statement with then PM Obuchi, with contents that were extremely forthcoming for both countries, but DJ was denounced by many progressives (just as progressives now with this agreement).

    In my view, the Korean and Japanese leaders of those times did the right thing. They did not settle everything in a setting where lots of people in both countries have enmity (just read the hate Korea content in the Sankei or look at the anti-China, anti-Korea collection in book stores in Japan).

    So this agreement will not stop the revisionists in Japan, but it will undercut their arguments. Some, maybe most if not all “activists” in Korea will continue their efforts, but that is par for the course for them.

  • Aholl Urang

    Next in line, China.

  • 99Pcent

    yes they want money, that is what they are asking for “compensation”, what the hay are you on about.

    • TV Monitor

      99Pcent

      yes they want money, that is what they are asking for “compensation”,

      No, the compensation is for the purpose of establishing a criminal reliability on the part of Japan. The discussed amount was only $25,000 ~ 30,000 per head, most of whom pledged to donate what they received.

  • 99Pcent

    There is no pleasing everyone, especially those anti Japan groups whom for nothing but the complete destruction of Japan will suffice. Korean after all are a very hateful, revengeful and unforgiving people. Also they are a lying people, especially these extreme groups because they have no morals. The Japanese knows this.

    • TV Monitor

      99Pcent

      Korean after all are a very hateful, revengeful and unforgiving people.

      Only against Japan.

    • primalxconvoy

      Obvious apologist troll is obvious.

  • blondein_tokyo

    Does Japan and Korea really think that women can forgive for having been kidnapped and raped repeatedly over the course of MONTHS? Really? “I’m sorry, here’s some money, now be quiet, little women, and go away.”

    I hope these women never accept it, and refuse to stop telling their stories until their dying day.

    • KenjiAd

      I don’t disagree with the first paragraph, but…

      I hope these women never accept it, and refuse to stop telling their stories until their dying day.

      You are wrong here. Your anger, which I actually share, is crowding your judgment.

      What you are advocating above, is basically these women should remain activists, angry about the past probably until the last day of life lives.

      For what?

      They have no moral obligation to live up to the expectation of other women who are upset about them, including you who almost certainly have no clue what they’ve gone through.

      These women, most of who grew up poor and illiterate, were raped twice, first by the Imperial Japanese soldiers, second by people with certain political agendas. They probably don’t even know they are being used as political pawns by the left and right in both countries.

      Here, even a “blond in Tokyo” is telling them what to do.

      Let not forget that they are real humans who had enough miseries already. Let them have a peace of mind and place. If money helps that, who is to say they shouldn’t have it.

      • blondein_tokyo

        I think you mean that my anger is clouding my judgment? No, I have to say, it is not. Yes – I am angry; but no, my judgment is not impaired by my anger any more than your anger impairs yours. Let me explain so that you can better understand, because I think this misunderstanding is my fault, since I didn’t word it clearly enough.

        Many of those women have stated outright that they do not want to accept that apology, that it isn’t good enough, and that money won’t make up for what happened to them. In one story I read, one lady stood up to the Korean government rep and YELLED at him that he didn’t belong there and should leave- clearly, she isn’t interested in hearing his apology. That is her right, and no – not me, you, the government, or anyone else should try to tell her that she should listen to it and accept it. That is HER choice; I totally support that; and I hope she hangs strong in her fight. I can well understand why forgiveness is not possible for her, because I think that is how I would feel, too.

        On the other hand, some women did accept the apology. I sincerely wish them the best and am very, very glad for them that they have found their peace with the subject. I am in no way at all critical of their decision, as it is theirs, and I respect that.

        So no, I am not “telling them what to do”. I am supporting their decision, whichever one they make.

        Is that clearer, now?

        And just FYI….don’t assume things like, “you almost certainly have no clue what they’ve gone through.” You don’t know, can’t know, what I’ve gone though. Yes; it’s fair to assume I haven’t been though exactly what they have, but Kenji…..I’m a woman. I have experienced sexual assault and harassment, and though it is not anywhere near on that scale, I do have an inkling of what it is like to live in a world of misogyny where women are routinely assaulted, and there is no justice.

      • TV Monitor

        blondein_tokyo

        On the other hand, some women did accept the apology.

        Only 1 out of 46, who is dying of cancer.

      • blondein_tokyo

        By the way, I love that you said this: “They have no moral obligation to live up to the expectation of other women who are upset about their ordeal,”

        Damn right! You totally seem to get it. Thank you. :)

  • PuyiGoroIgor

    What I find appalling is that the Korean side apparently went into the negos sans the sex-slaves input/ knowledge. This was a blunder, even though doing so might have elongated the talks, assuming the sex slaves hadn’t formulated a common stand. Institutions are far removed from the individuals’ experiences and for them to have a pow wow in camera must feel like a big let-down to the comfort women.

    • Malaysian Expat

      Not the first time either. If they are serious in the welfare of these women, they wouldn’t ignore them and treated them as social outcast for decades after WW2.

      Korean get ‘serious’ about comfort women issue when they realise how useful these women can be to their own agenda.

  • disqus_vBekJrf7g5

    So much anti-Korean hate in the comments makes it pretty clear that the Japanese have still got a long way to go before they can admit what they did, and be genuinely sorry for it. Until then, this is just ‘hush money’ because the publicity around the sex-slave issue is so tarnishing ‘brand Japan’ (as it should).
    The money needs to be followed up with measures to improve education of the issue in line with international norms of understanding, as well as laws against war-crime denial that are punishable by law.
    Then we will see the sea-change that will stop future generations destroy any settlement by stirring the whole thing up again by calling for ‘investigations’ and ‘reviews’.
    But Japan can’t stop picking at its scabs.

  • Malaysian Expat

    Who abused these comfort women more?

    Their fellow countrymen who sold or trafficked them into sexual slavery, their fellow countrymen who raped and abused them at comfort station (Korean were part of Imperial Japanese Army), and the same countrymen who shunned them for years after WW2, and the same countrymen who siphoned off their compensation money, and the same countrymen who suddenly discovered their values in their anti-Japanese agenda?

    Or Japanese today who have nothing to do with the crimes of their forefathers?

    • TV Monitor

      Netouyo Expat

      Who abused these comfort women more?

      The Japanese Military according to this Abe Apology.

      Or Japanese today who have nothing to do with the crimes of their forefathers?

      Abe apology says Japanese government is responsible.

      • Malaysian Expat

        He is being very generous.

        We hope to see Korean leader of equal integrity and courage but alas that’s a tall task for a culture well known for denial and emotional hysteria.

      • Jonathan Fields

        Pot meet kettle. Japan was a belligerent in the world’s most devastating conflict, raping and pillaging its way across Asia for 50 years. The people then fought tooth and nail to paint themselves as the victims for 70 years after that. Nice try netuyo-chan.

      • Malaysian Expat

        That was almost a century ago, and Japan was indeed both aggressor and victim of the war. This was taught in all Japanese textbooks.

        The Korean fought for the IJA and committed atrocities all across Asia including Nanjing Massacre together with IJA. The reports by western prisoners of war suggested they were more barbaric and cruel than the Japanese. They all claimed they were forced to do so, typical of a culture who cried victim but never took responsibility.

        Try harder, Mr Kimchi Johnny Boy..

      • Jonathan Fields

        Japan was not a victim of the war. The Japanese people were victims of a corrupt government (and a war criminal emperor who ducked responsibility because the US decided Russia was the greater of two evils), but Japan as a nation needs to take its lumps and own up to what happened. As long as puppets like you try to deflect blame or shunt it off on others, Japan will never get over WWII. But I donno what I expected from the product of an education system where they teach more about the fabulous products of Tottori prefecture than world history.

      • Malaysian Expat

        I think you are the product of simplistic education in Korea where emotion triumph over facts. Japan is as much a victim of WW2 as an aggressor. More Japanese died during WW2 than Korean who preferred to kill each other during the Korean War.

        Korean like to see themselves as victim of WW2 while actually many of them committed worse atrocities than Japanese in campaigns throughout Asia. They were Japanese citizens loyal to the Japanese Emperor during WW2.

        Korean history textbook is typical of hate education of the worst kind.

      • Jonathan Fields

        You need to brush up on your history. Try reading something written outside of Japan.

      • Malaysian Expat

        Anything is better than something written in South Korea. People get prosecuted there for saying the truth like Professor Park Yu Ha.

        It is a bit like North Korea. That’s the Korean way

      • Jonathan Fields

        Pot meet kettle. Japan was a belligerent in the world’s most devastating conflict, raping and pillaging its way across Asia for 50 years. The people then fought tooth and nail to paint themselves as the victims for 70 years after that. Nice try netuyo-chan.

    • KenjiAd

      Ah, this is a classic example of false dichotomy. You are asking to choose an abuser between a) abusive Koreans and ROK government in 30’s – 80’s and b) Japanese people, not government, today who have nothing to do with it. That’s not a fair choice.

      If your post is to point out the fact that Korean themselves were involved in deceiving/raping unsuspecting girls and keeping them at the Comfort Stations (CS), I believe you are technically correct. That’s how human trafficking were done those days in East Asia, including Japan.

      But you omitted to also point out that these activities of Korean pimps and human-traffickers were for the Japanese military. Most CS’s were set up by the request of the military, especially in China.

      Your second point is more reasonable. I do agree with you that the ROK government has a certain share of blame for what happened to these women after WWII.