EDITORIAL: Japan-South Korea Relations Take A Step Backward with Comfort Women Memorial Day
By The Sankei Shimbun
Despite President Moon Jae-in’s reassurance of improving South Korea’s relations with Japan, his government seems to be heading the opposite direction — to the great disappointment of Japan.
The National Liberation Day of Korea was held on August 15 to commemorate the end of Japanese governance of Korea. Moon called for peace and prosperity, showing his willingness to cooperate with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to develop bilateral relations in a future-oriented direction.
Cooperation between Japan and South Korea is crucial, especially during the North Korean nuclear crisis. President Moon should be commended for avoiding direct criticism of Japan over historical issues in his speech.
However, Japan cannot overlook the fact that he still refuses to accept the finality of the two countries’ comfort women agreement, and instead chooses to relentlessly bring up the issue.
This year, the South Korean government designated August 14 as an official memorial day for comfort women. The government then launched the Japanese Army Comfort Women Research Institute on August 10, appointing as director a professor who advocates the “instant invalidation” of the bilateral government-to-government agreement.
South Korea must not forget that the accord on comfort women was agreed by South Korea as well as Japan and signed on December 28, 2015. The two governments confirmed that it was the “final and irreversible solution” on the issue that had plagued their relations, promising each other that they would refrain from criticizing or accusing each other over the issue in the future.
President Moon’s message on this year's memorial day was a far cry from his aforementioned “future-oriented” approach. While he said he “doesn’t think the issue can be resolved through diplomacy,” he also said that he “hopes the issue won’t lead to diplomatic conflict.”
To declare that the issue cannot be solved through diplomacy is to deny the 2015 comfort women agreement. For President Moon to add that he hopes it won’t lead to a diplomatic conflict is insincere. He may as well have asked Japan to stop complaining and keep silent.
President Moon goes so far as to portray the comfort women issue as a “universal matter of human rights for all women,” adding that it exists alongside the two countries different perceptions of history. The new South Korean institute, however, cannot be allowed to continue the promotion of lies about “sexual slavery” and the propagandizing of twisted accounts of history.
Is South Korea even ready to face their own past?
How about comfort women who were used by Korean and American troops during the Korean War？
Will South Korea acknowledge the sexual violence inflicted on Vietnamese woman by Korean troops during the Vietnam War?
The Japanese government responded to President Moon’s speech by saying they would proceed with the "steady implementation" of the 2015 bilateral comfort women agreement.
This lenient approach, however, is unhelpful. Japan must explicitly protest and press South Korea to rethink the path it is choosing to take.
Click here to read the original article in Japanese.
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