Former president Park Guen-hye’s 2015 agreement with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the topic of comfort women is still a topic of controversy among Korean people. Now, current President Moon Jae-in is working to resolve the issue while making sure not to hinder relations with Japan in dealing with North Korea. In their first meeting in Hamburg, Germany, President Moon stated that most South Koreans cannot accept the agreement struck between Park and Abe and as of now it has not been confirmed whether Moon had pushed for a renegotiation. Former president Parks agreement which called for Japan to pay 1 billion yen to a fund supporting surviving South Korean comfort women and in return South Korea would refrain from criticizing Japan and would remove a statue memorializing the victims in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul was not well received by South Korean people. Comfort women were women forced into brothels by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. There are many comfort women testimonies that girls were recruited against their will through coaxing and intimidation. Over the years many books have surfaced that are filled with comfort women stories detailing their treatment.
During Moon’s presidential campaign he vowed to renegotiate the agreement on Korean comfort women. In February a poll showed that 70 percent of South Koreans are in favor of a renegotiation but Moon has yet to make mention of when or if this will happen. This is due to the ongoing tension with North Korea. Moon does not wish to hinder relations between Japan and South Korea at this time when it is even more critical to counter North Korea’s growing nuclear threats. It has also been difficult for Korea to see China as an ally. Over the years China has been North Korea’s biggest ally, a source of aid, and trade partner. They have also seemingly come to the defense of North Korea several times and refused to hold sanctions on Pyongyang which has only cast doubt on their intentions.
For three generations the Kim leaders of North Korea have poured all of their resources into their military leaving most of their country in devastating poverty. The launch of their first ICBM has marked a major step in their development. This along with the fifth nuclear test in 2016, their most powerful nuclear test to date, only confirms that all efforts at the moment need to remain focused on the deadly threat North Korea’s advancements in technology pose.
Despite their differences, Japan and South Korea have agreed to stay vigilant with the situation in North Korea while looking for ways to defuse the Korean comfort women issue. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry is also reported to launch an investigation into how the previous deal on comfort women was reached. Hopefully, once tension is defused on the situation with North Korea, President Moon can then focus his efforts to help all surviving comfort women get the justice they deserve and end the tension between Japan and South Korea once and for all.