SEOUL – On Dec. 28, 2015, Japan and South Korea signed a landmark agreement over the former’s wartime sexual exploitation of Korean “comfort women.” Japan formally apologized and contributed ¥1 billion to a South Korean fund to support the living survivors or the families of the deceased. In return, South Korea would consider the issue settled and dialogue with citizens’ groups to remove a comfort woman statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
The agreement received low public support and fierce resistance from citizens’ groups in South Korea. Activists installed new statutes, including outside the Japanese Consulate in Busan (in January 2017) and in San Francisco (last November). On Jan. 4, recently elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared that the agreement “is defective as it not only goes against the principle of truth and justice, but did not reflect the view of the victims.” Although he did not technically void the agreement, Moon repeatedly called for new, more “sincere” apologies from Japan.