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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

South Korea asks Japan to offer “voluntary apology” to former comfort women

  • January 10, 2018
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All papers reported heavily in their front- and inside-pages on Tuesday’s announcement by the South Korean government regarding its position on the 2015 comfort women agreement with Japan, saying that the Moon administration chose not to seek renegotiation on the grounds that the agreement is an official accord reached between the two governments. However, Seoul called for Tokyo to voluntarily offer a genuine apology in the hope that Japan will make efforts on its own to restore the honor and respect of the victims. In announcing the Moon administration’s official view on the bilateral pact, Foreign Minister Kang said it does not constitute a “genuine settlement” of the history dispute since it failed to reflect the wishes of the elderly victims. Kang also said the ROK government will disburse to the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation some $9.1 million in taxpayer money, a figure equivalent to Japan’s payment made to the foundation in line with the 2015 accord. The dailies interpreted this proposal as possibly representing Seoul’s intention to return Japan’s financial contribution.


The GOJ reportedly lodged a strong protest against the Moon administration’s announcement by saying that Tokyo will not take additional measures. Foreign Minister Kono told the press last night that the 2015 pact is an official commitment made by the two sovereign states and that under international and universal principles, this type of accord must be implemented irrespective of a change of government. The Abe administration is reportedly disappointed with the Moon administration’s attempt to “move the goalposts,” dismissing its call for additional measures such as a letter of apology from Prime Minister Abe. As for South Korea’s plan to allocate $9.1 million for the comfort women foundation, Tokyo reportedly believes that if it is meant to be a “substitute” for Japan’s contribution, it would constitute an abrogation of the bilateral accord. Yomiuri said more GOJ officials are becoming distrustful of the South Korean government. PM Abe is reportedly inclined not to accept Seoul’s invitation to the PyeongChang Olympics, with Yomiuri quoting an unnamed senior GOJ official as saying: “The premier will be criticized heavily at home if he chooses to visit South Korea at a time when comfort women memorials are being built in South Korea one after another, in addition to the latest announcement.”


The Moon administration is reportedly being put in an awkward position, since nobody was satisfied with yesterday’s announcement. Some victims and their supporters were angry over the government’s decision not to seek renegotiation. Asahi wrote that the ROK government appears to be in internal disarray, explaining that the Blue House under President Moon is distrustful of its Foreign Ministry since the ministry’s position of maintaining close cooperation with the U.S. and Japan is not necessarily compatible with the administration’s policy of jumpstarting inter-Korean dialogue and improving ties with China.      

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