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South Korean scholar says public opinion on comfort women accord still volatile

(Asahi: February 1, 2016 – p. 3)

 

 Interview with Cho Sae-young, head of Japan Research Center, Dongseo University, by Yoshihiro Makino

 

 Overall, the South Korean public’s reaction [to the comfort women agreement] has been calm and restrained. There had been strong reaction to various ROK-Japan agreements in the past, but this time, public opinion has been relatively calm. Considering the fierce opposition on the comfort women issue in the past, the reaction has been milder than expected.

 

 I believe this is the result of a desire not to continue with a unstable ROK-Japan relationship any longer and concerns and exhaustion with abnormal bilateral relations for nearly three years, which had rendered even the holding of summit meetings impossible.

 

 However, there is still discontent in the country with regard to the “final and irrevocable settlement.” Such dissatisfaction is taking the form of sensitive reaction to the issue of removing the statue of the girl.

 

 Public opinion on the agreement is very volatile. If the situation worsens, it is fully possible that this may turn into fierce backlash. The ROK government will have a very tough job convincing the people. The implementation of the agreement, such as setting up the fund (to help the former comfort women), may take an unexpectedly long time. If statements or actions in Japan come to provoke South Korean public opinion, this task will become even more difficult.

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