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Japan puzzled by Pres. Park’s comment on negotiation over comfort women

Japan puzzled by Pres. Park’s comment on negotiation over comfort women

Posted June. 15, 2015 07:04,   


Opinions differ as to the meaning of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s comment in the interview with the Washington Post on Saturday that South Korea and Japan are in the final stage of negotiations over the so-called "comfort women," sex slaves for Japan`s World War II soldiers. The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not released any public statement since President Park’s interview while the Japanese government seems to be surprised. The victims of sexual slavery, the parties directly concerned, said they have not been informed about the progress of negotiations between South Korea and Japan.

When asked to elaborate on the progress, President Park cited behind-the-scenes discussions. Although the president did not explain in detail, it is interpreted that there has been some progress through a separate negotiation channel besides talks among the foreign ministry staffs. Given that the South Korean government has been saying the comfort women issue needs to be resolved through political determination, President Park’s comment can be interpreted that there has been progress in the negotiation to an extent Park is ready to make a decision.

However, foreign affairs source said on Sunday, “Still, Korea and Japan see the same issue differently. There is a big gap in awareness of the issue.” Another source said, “President Park’s comment (that she thinks we can expect to look forward to a very meaningful 50th anniversary) means that the government will make efforts to resolve the issue, not meaning the comfort women issue will be resolved by June 22, the 50th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral ties between Korea and Japan. “So far, various ways have been discussed at the eight rounds of director-level talks. But we cannot say that Japan will accept all proposed measures,” the Korean government insider said.

The Korean government has argued so far that Japan’s compensation must be on the level that the victims can be convinced. However, Ahn Shin-kwon, director of the House of Sharing (nursing home for comfort women victims) said in a phone interview with the Dong-A Ilbo, “The government official has never contacted since April. We’ve never been informed that Korea has made an offer to Japan or Japan has received any offer.”

Japan has seemed puzzled by President Park’s interview. The Yomiuri Shimbun quoted a high-level official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan as saying, “I am not sure what President Park called ‘progress’ as there has been no concrete progress.” The Asahi Shimbun reported a comment from a foreign ministry official that it is difficult to assess from what perspectives Park described the situation as “considerable progress.”