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Abe hoped to make bold decision in talks over comfort women

Abe hoped to make bold decision in talks over comfort women

Posted June. 15, 2015 07:05,   


Commenting on the issue of comfort women for the Japanese military during the Second World War an interview with the U.S. daily Washington Post, President Park Geun-hye said, “Considerable process has been made between Korea and Japan, and we are at the final phase of negotiations.” The Japanese government is reportedly perplexed at her remarks. While Park judges that conclusion of a deal is imminent, Japan apparently does not believe negotiations have progressed to that extent just yet.

In an effort to find a solution to the comfort women issue, Korea and Japan have held eight rounds of talks since April last year. The reason for their joint effort is that unless they solve the issue, they cannot move bilateral relationship to the next level in a future-oriented way, and three-way collaboration between Korea, the U.S. and Japan could also be on a shaky ground. The U.S. also urged Japan to display sincerity in the issue of past history. Korean First Vice Foreign Affairs Minister Cho Tae-yong’s remarks that “We are in a critical phase” are interpreted as meaning that the two sides are narrowing differences.

As for the comfort women issue, Korea and Japan were close to reaching conclusion during the Lee Myung-bak administration. According to officials involved in the talks at the time, the two countries agreed that the Japanese government would pay 3 million yen each (24,250 U.S. dollars) in a gesture of apology to Korean comfort women who are at advanced age, the Japanese prime minister sends a letter of apology, and the third Korea-Japan joint history research committee conducts joint research on the comfort women issue, but then Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda failed to make a final decision. It is unknown what elements are included in the latest discussions, but the Japanese government should clearly convey a message of apology. As two former comfort women also known as sex slaves passed away on Thursday, only 50 Korean comfort women are still surviving now. Japan does not have many chances to resolve the issue.

It is somewhat regrettable that Koreans came to learn some progress had been made in negotiations over the comfort women issue with Japan through an interview with a foreign media outlet. Nonetheless, since President Park would not have remarked on the issue without any ground, it is hoped that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe makes a bold decision. The two countries will hold commemorative ceremonies in Seoul and Tokyo on the occasion of the 50 anniversary (next Monday) of the normalization of Korea-Japan ties. Watchers say that President Park and Japanese Prime Minister Abe will take part in the events respectively. To ensure that these events would hold some significance, Japan must engage in the negotiations in a sincere fashion.