Due to South Korea’s self-righteous move, the bilateral rift with Japan over the issue of historical perception has deepened further.
Under such circumstances, the establishment of “future-oriented” relations between Japan and South Korea will only become less likely.
South Korea’s parliament has passed a bill to revise an existing law, designating August 14 as a day to honour comfort women, calling them victims of the Japanese military. The vote was 205 in favour and none against, with 8 abstentions, with both the ruling and opposition parties supporting the bill. The revised law will be promulgated shortly and will come into force half a year later.
The revised law stipulates that the establishment of the commemorative day is aimed at having the comfort women issue known both at home and abroad. It calls for both the national and local governments to make efforts to hold events and publicise them.
Also included in the law is a provision that if the government formulates a policy related to former comfort women, it is required to hear opinions from them.
August 14 was the date in 1991 when Kim Hak Sun, a former comfort woman, first went public with her experience by talking to reporters. By legislating the commemorative day, the issue of comfort women will be publicly taken up again and again when this day comes around every year.
Coupled with an annual National Liberation Day on August 15, which marks the liberation of Korea from Japan’s colonial rule, anti-Japanese sentiment among South Korean people could be passed down into the future. It must be inevitable for Japanese views of South Korea to become ever more severe.
Not to be overlooked is that the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been promoting measures focusing on the issue of comfort women.
In its five-year national management plan compiled in July, his administration spelled out the establishment of the commemorative day and the construction of a history museum. It also announced a policy of building a memorial for comfort women at a national cemetery.
The Seoul High Court found Prof Park Yu Ha, an author of an academic work on comfort women, guilty of defamation. A former comfort woman was invited to the banquet held to welcome US President Donald Trump.
The government, national assembly and judiciary all alike are pandering to the anti-Japanese movement instigated by civic groups in South Korea. This is an extremely grave situation.
Both the Japanese and South Korean governments, in the agreement reached in 2015, confirmed that the comfort women issue has been settled “finally and irreversibly”. It is a valuable achievement realised with mutual concessions of both sides, leaving no room for renegotiations.
Also reflected in the agreement were wishes that the administration of then President Park Geun-hye heard from former comfort women. On the basis of the agreement, 70 per cent of former comfort women received money in cash from a foundation established by the South Korean government. Isn’t such a fact the very thing the Moon administration should let known widely among its people?
It is only a matter of course that Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed regret about the commemorative day, saying it “runs counter to the spirit of the Japan-South Korea agreement”. On such occasions as top-level meetings, Japan should urge South Korea to steadily implement the agreement.
Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi, who was visiting South Korea, expressed his concern over a possible adverse impact on overall Japan-South Korea relations. Multi-faceted efforts, such as reinforcing the exchange of legislators of both countries through the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union, are also necessary.