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Editorial: Review of comfort women accord no excuse to delay implementation

  • December 28, 2017
  • , The Japan News , 7:17 p.m.
  • English Press

The Yomiuri Shimbun


The accord reached by Japan and South Korea regarding the issue of comfort women is a result achieved by the two countries coming to a compromise. The only thing required of South Korean President Moon Jae In is to steadily implement the accord.


A report was announced by a task force that was set up by the South Korean Foreign Ministry to review the accord, which was reached at the end of 2015. Reviewing the accord is in itself problematic, but the findings of the report are also strange.


The report wrapped up the review by saying that the bilateral accord was reached without adequately gathering the opinions of victims. The main aim of the wrap-up seems to be to criticize the administration of Park Geun-hye, who was president when the bilateral accord was concluded. There is no persuasive basis for the wrap-up. It is clear that the wrap-up in the report was in line with politically biased assertions of civic groups that support former comfort women.


In the process of reaching the accord, the Park administration consulted with former comfort women and civic groups 15 times and accepted as important three points — clarification of the Japanese military’s involvement, an official apology by the Japanese government, and compensation with funds from the Japanese side. They are all included into the contents of the agreement.


The Japanese government donated ¥1 billion to a foundation set up by the South Korean government based on the accord. At least 70 percent of former comfort women accepted the cash paid by the foundation. It is wide of the mark to cite a lack of communication with former comfort women.


The report revealed a total of eight secret negotiations between Shotaro Yachi, secretary general of Japan’s National Security Secretariat, and Lee Byung Kee, chief of staff at the South Korean presidential Blue House, criticizing insufficient democratic procedures.


Seoul needs concrete efforts


The report also mentioned an “undisclosed agreement” that included a request from Japan.


Negotiations that deal with subtle, delicate issues will not be finalized unless the contents are treated as secret by the parties concerned. It is South Korea’s problem that the undisclosed request has been a burden on Seoul. It is not an issue to be rehashed.


The Japan-South Korea accord is a promise between the two countries. They confirmed that the comfort women issue “is resolved finally and irreversibly,” and the accord was welcomed in the international community by parties including the United States and the United Nations.


Moon was elected by raising “renegotiation of the accord” as a pledge in his presidential election campaign.


Moon likely made the task force review the accord out of a desire to put off its implementation. It may be his miscalculation that there appeared no materials in the report with which Seoul can ask the Japanese government for a renegotiation of the accord and additional measures on the issue.


The Moon administration says it will consult with former comfort women and civic groups to consider how to deal with the issue. If Seoul cancels the accord, it will lose its credibility.


Concerning the statue of a girl symbolizing comfort women that was set up in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, there are no movements on the side of South Korea to make efforts for an appropriate solution based on the bilateral accord.


The Moon administration should take concrete measures to remove the girl statue. Unless the efforts are visible, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not expected to attend the opening ceremony for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 28, 2017)

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