S. Korea's Park: Summit with Japan pointless unless 'comfort women' issue settled

November 05, 2013

By AKIRA NAKANO/ Correspondent

SEOUL--South Korean President Park Geun-hye said a summit with Japan would be meaningless unless the “comfort women” and other issues are settled first, the online edition of the BBC reported Nov. 4.

“I look to Japan as a very important partner with whom we have a lot to work on together, and I hope we can look forward to improved relations,” the South Korean president said in an interview with the BBC. “But sadly the fact is there are certain issues that complicate (the relationship).”

One of the most contentious issues concerns “comfort women,” a euphemism for women and girls forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers before and during World War II.

Many of them spent the rest of their lives suffering hardships and pain, Park said.

“None of these cases have been resolved or addressed; the Japanese have not changed any of their positions with regard to this,” the BBC quoted Park as saying. “If Japan continues to stick to the same historical perceptions (of World War II and the colonization of the Korean Peninsula) and repeat its past comments, then what purpose would a summit serve? Perhaps it would be better not to have one.

“If they continue to say there is no need for apology, and no need to acknowledge their past wrongdoings, then what good would all this do?” she said.

Japan, in fact, apologized in 1993 for “immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds” inflicted on comfort women in a statement issued in the name of then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.

However, successive Japanese administrations have argued that all war-related compensation issues concerning South Koreans, including comfort women, were settled under a 1965 agreement that was signed when Tokyo and Seoul normalized diplomatic relations.

South Korea insists that the comfort woman issue was not part of the agreement. Some former comfort women and their supporters have demanded Japan “formally apologize and offer official compensation.”

In the 1990s, Japan set up the Asian Women’s Fund, a public-private initiative to provide compensation to former comfort women. But many former comfort women in South Korea rejected the gesture because it did not directly come from the Japanese government.

In December 2011, then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and South Korean leader Lee Myung-bak held talks in Kyoto. But the negotiations broke down over the comfort women issue. No Japan-South Korea summits have taken place since.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the “door for dialogue is always open.” But the South Korean government, arguing that Japan should propose real solutions first, has said: “It is difficult to hold dialogue just for the sake of dialogue.”

Park is on a nearly weeklong three-nation tour of Europe. She visited France before traveling to Britain, and she wraps up her trip in Belgium.

By AKIRA NAKANO/ Correspondent
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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the ASEAN summit in Brunei in October (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the ASEAN summit in Brunei in October (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the ASEAN summit in Brunei in October (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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