Up to 200.000 women were forced during World War II to serve in Japanese brothels. The enslavement of these women has been for long time causing frictions between South Korea and Japan. After about 70 years after the ending of the Japanese occupation of Korea, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked for forgiveness for the abuses of Korean women and accepts a “deep responsibility” of the issue.
Video News Conference Korea-Japan
Japan will establish a fund of 1 bn yen (USD 5.6m) for the victims of these atrocities as well as work towards restoring the dignity and honour of these women. However, this has been criticised as victims are asking for the Japanese government to assume legal responsibility and lay out the projects and aids that the fund will be used for. Moreover, a lot of South Korean citizens are sceptical about whether the Japanese government is just trying to sweep under the carpet this dark part of Japanese history as it officially requested to remove the statue in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul that was a memorial for the so called “comfort women”. Without the removal of the statue no funds would be paid.
Thus, the Japanese government is standing in its way to finally deal with the issue of comfort women and take over its historic responsibility. It should follow the path of reconciliation out of its own interest, acknowledging its full legal responsibility and trying to actively promote a discourse instead of trying to hide its past. A symbolic action like Willi Brandt’s Warsaw genuflection has the potential to settle this issue once and for all.
Video: Willy Brandt
This could enable the two US allies in East Asia, Korean and Japan, to enter a new era of collaboration regarding other issues such as the Tokdo island dispute and a united stance towards China that has expanded its territory in the East China Sea as well as North Korea.