Wednesday, June 21, 2017

South Korea's Moon Renegs on Japan's 2015 Comfort Women Settlment

South Korea's new President Moon Jae-in recently stated in an interview that he wants the reject the 2015 Settlement Agreement made by his predecessor and the government of Japan. In the Agreement, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe formally apologized for Japan's wartime mistreatment of Korean women who were forced to work in Imperial Japanese Army Brothels during WWII. As part of that agreement, Japan has paid 1 Billion Japanese Yen (Equivalent to 9 million USD) in compensation to the few aging survivors and their families. As part of that agreement, the government of South Korea had declared the matter settled and agreed to end once and for all calls for any further apologies from Japan. So what happened? Japan has met its part of the deal disbursing the agreed funds into a South Korean fund and the PM has expressed his apologies and remorse for the suffering of these women. But then South Korea impeached their former President Park Geun-hye over corruption and now the new president feels the agreement made under the former president is not enough. This of course opens a whole new can of worms and both countries have been down this road before. The past cannot be undone but Japan has taken responsibility and settled the issue with South Korea. New demands for greater compensation and more apologies may impact bilateral relations. On the course of greater instability by the DPRK, South Korea will need Japan as an ally. No dollar amount cannot erase the crimes of the past. From our perspective, the dollar amount in the 2015 settlement does not adequately compensate for the scale of the crime. But that's what South Korea Agreed to. When you consider how few elderly Comfort Women are still alive, it is not within reason. That being said, call for new apologies will serve no purpose. We hope Moon will find a way to back down from his own campaign rhetoric and either agree to the terms of the 2015 settlement or find a better solution to a problem he chose to champion.

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