If the “comfort women” deal succeeds in calming hotheads in both Japan and South Korea, then it may be worthwhile. That said, I would have preferred a more future-oriented deal.
What is at the root of the animus between Japan and the rest of East Asia? That Japan fails to accept responsibility for past actions. In what way would such a stance hurt the rest of East Asia? By rekindling the extreme nationalistic and militaristic attitudes of the past. How might that manifest itself? Initially, hate crimes might be directed against non-Japanese living in Japan, such as Koreans and Chinese.
In fact, such acts have occurred in recent years. In July 2014, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged Japan to “firmly address manifestations of hate and racism as well as incitement to racist violence and hatred during rallies,” and create laws to rectify the situation.
In other words, the foreign residents of Japan are a kind of litmus test for Japan’s national attitudes. And unlike the aging comfort women, those residents will live on, and they will suffer as time goes by unless Japan changes for the better.
Therefore, instead of asking for financial compensation in return for dropping the issue of the comfort women, who will die soon, why not ask for increased legal protections for Japan’s foreign residents instead? What better indication could there be that the Japan of today is not like the Japan of the past if Koreans, Chinese and other non-Japanese can live there without harassment or job discrimination?
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.