Widely Convey Japan’s Sincere Efforts on So-called Comfort Women Issue

To prevent misunderstandings surrounding the issue of so-called comfort women from spreading to the international community, Japan must tenaciously convey accurate information and share its efforts to resolve the issue.

The Seoul Central District Court ruling that ordered the Japanese government to pay compensation to former comfort women has been finalized.

This ruling goes against the principle that a sovereign state is not subject to the jurisdiction of another state as per sovereign immunity under international law, and it is extremely unjust. This cannot be tolerated because, moreover, the ruling ignores the 2015 Japan-South Korea agreement that confirmed the comfort women issue had been “resolved finally and irreversibly.”

At a press conference, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he was confused by the ruling, explicitly saying that the 2015 agreement acknowledges the fact that it was an official agreement between the two governments. However, it was Moon who catered to public opinion and undermined the agreement.

Regarding separate rulings that ordered Japanese companies to compensate former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula, Moon said it is not desirable to convert seized assets into cash.

For Moon to change his stance on honoring these court decisions would be reasonable, but Moon needs to present a plan for a breakthrough as soon as possible.

Moon said he wants to discuss a solution between Japan and South Korea to both issues in which the victims can agree. It makes no sense to seek for the Japanese government to act to break the deadlock.

The Japanese government has indicated that filing a lawsuit with the International Court of Justice over the comfort women ruling remains an option.

In the first place, the issue of claims between the two countries has been confirmed to have been “settled completely and finally” in the 1965 Japan-South Korea Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Cooperation.

Under the San Francisco Peace Treaty, each country abandoned its claims. If compensation claims of individuals against other nations are recognized, it would shake the foundations of the postwar international order.

On the comfort women issue, Japan was criticized in the 1990s that the former Japanese military forcefully took away women. Afterward, testimony on this was found to be false, and no documents have been found showing that women were forcefully taken away.

Even so, Japan has sincerely addressed this issue, including paying “atonement money” to those who suffered. In the 2015 agreement between Japan and South Korea, Japan made its responsibility clear, saying the issue was “a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women.” Then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his “most sincere apologies and remorse.”

It is regrettable that such efforts are not well known in South Korean society. In order to prevent misunderstandings from spreading through such acts as erecting statues symbolizing comfort women, it is necessary to carefully explain the matter to other countries and international organizations on a regular basis.

U.S. President Joe Biden highly praised the 2015 agreement when he was serving as vice president to President Barack Obama. The importance of the agreement must be reaffirmed to help rebuild cooperative relations among Japan, South Korea and the United States.