South Korean comfort women is a term used to refer to girls and women forced into sex slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army before and during the Second World War. These girls would be lured into this through promises for good jobs as hoteliers, nurses, and at the factories both in Japan and abroad.
Comfort stations were places where soldiers went to comfort themselves with women after a long day at war. They were either located in Japan or other Japanese military occupied territories. Women were forcefully abducted from their homes in the rural areas while in urban areas advertisements were made through mediators in the newspapers and women volunteered to go to work, but ended being turned into sex slaves. Good sums of money would be proposed and some families considered this an opportunity to pay off their debts.
Survivor comfort women testimonies reveal the atrocities committed to them by the soldiers. Most of the Korean comfort women are reported to have suffered from physical injuries, diseases and others were unable to give birth in their later lives. From the comfort women stories, it is also clear that those from conservative countries, where chastity comes before marriage, never returned home after the war, but stayed there until death.
On December 28th, 2015 a joint agreement was signed between Japan and the Republic of South Korea which was supposed to end the comfort women issue. Fumio Kishida, the Japanese foreign affairs minister, agreed that harm was committed by the Japanese military for their involvement in the matter and Shinzo Abe the Prime minister expressed his sincere apologies to the women who had to undergo these atrocities. The Japanese government also agreed to give a one-time contribution amounting to 9 million dollars which were supposed to support survivors.
Yun Byung-Se in return promised to put down a statue of comfort women which has been erected in front of the Japanese Embassy in Korea, and which has been a major bone of contention between the two countries. It was hoped that this would bring a permanent solution to this issue and hence amend the two states relationship. Six months later, the agreement reached needs to be fully implemented but it has faced by great opposition from both countries. one of the main reason for this is how famous the statue has grown around the globe, a fact which has posed a challenge in the relationship between the two countries.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a speech to the Japanese Diet said that he doesn’t acknowledge Japanese involvement in sex slavery further infuriating the Koreans. The government of Japan views the deal as a solution to the two countries’ strained relations.This, however, is not the sentiment among the Japanese citizens who have been protesting over the agreement.More tellingly, many senior politicians argue that there is no evidence of the Japanese military forcing women into sex slavery.
South Korean citizens are divided over this issue in that many do not support both the removal of the statue and also the agreement. Young South Koreans are against the relocation of the statue. It is due to this deal too that the Saenuri Party lost its legislative majority to the opposition party which has been in favor of a renegotiation of the Korean comfort women agreement. Many South Korean civil societies are against this agreement because they feel that Japan is trying to evade their wrongdoings and have taken the deal to the United Nations to see whether it meets the International Human Rights Standards.
South Korea has shown a lot of interest in amending its relationship with Japan, but the statue of comfort women has posed a challenge to the implementation of the agreement. Many countries are also in support of the statue of South Korean comfort women and have built similar statues. It is therefore upon the two countries to rescue their relationship before they lose perspective on the issue.