South Korea and Taiwan Hold ‘Comfort Women’ Commemoration, Angering Japan

Protesters demonstrate near a statue of a South Korean "comfort women" during a protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul last year. Japan has previously expressed concern regarding the memorialization of the women forced to serve in Japanese wartime brothels. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Keizo Mori/UPI

Monuments were opened in both South Korea and Taiwan on Tuesday as a tribute to the “comfort women” forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II.

In South Korea, staged protests were hailed as the government unveiled a monument commemorating the ‘Memorial Day for Japanese Forces’ Comfort Women Victims,’ a move that could undermine the country’s relationship with Japan as the two countries seek to contain North Korea.

“My hope is that this issue will not lead to a diplomatic dispute between South Korea and Japan,” said South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in commemoration of the day. “I also do not think that this will be solved by a bilateral diplomatic solution.”

“The comfort women issue is not just a historical problem between South Korea and Japan. It is an issue of sexual abuse of women during wartime and at the same time an issue of women’s rights,” he continued.

According to reports in local media, the Japanese government delivered a message to the South Korean government warning of the “importance of following through” on a 2015 agreement signed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former South Korean President Park Geun-hye that provided between $8 million to $9 million to surviving victims.

However, Moon has criticized the deal as “seriously flawed” and indicated that his government will do more to ensure further reparations to the victims.

“The government will do its utmost to maintain communication with the victims. It will respect the victims as key players in addressing the issue in line with the human rights regulations of the international community that advocate victim-oriented settlement,” said of his government’s efforts. “It will also do its utmost in projects aimed at restoring the honor and dignity of the victims.”

“Now, we must overcome our painful wounds and work to realize the common values of global peace and women’s rights,” he continued.”It is an issue that will only be resolved when we ourselves and the entire world, including Japan, deeply reflect on ourselves about sexual violence against women and their human rights, and take the issue as a lesson never to repeat the same mistake again,” he said.

Meanwhile, similar protests took place in Taiwan, as over 50 activists attended the unveiling of bronze statue marking the comfort women’s plight in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan, in a ceremony attended by former President Ma Ying-jeo. Activists demanded additional compensation for Taiwanese victims of the crime.

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