The Yomiuri ShimbunThe South Korean government demands further concessions from the Japanese side even while shelving the promise it should keep. This stance of the administration led by South Korean President Moon Jae In demonstrates a lack of diplomatic common sense and is considered discourteous. It may lead to a rupture in the bilateral relations between the two countries.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha announced the administration’s policy regarding the bilateral agreement over the comfort women issue. Asserting that the accord did not reflect the opinions of the former comfort women, she said the accord “cannot be a true solution to resolve the issue,” denying the significance of the agreement.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that she has rehashed the issue while saying that South Korea “will not ask for a renegotiation, as the deal was official, reached between the two governments.”
Regarding the ¥1 billion the Japanese government contributed to a foundation established to support the former comfort women, she made clear that the South Korean government will shoulder the cost of the contribution in its budget. She said Seoul will discuss with Japan what to do with the Japanese contribution. As to how the foundation should be managed in the future, she only said it would be decided by hearing public opinion.
At least 70 percent of the former comfort women have accepted cash payments from the foundation. An effective demand for renegotiations would run counter to the spirit of the agreement, which confirmed that the issue has been settled “finally and irreversibly.” It is not acceptable in any way.
Japan contributed the money out of the government budget at the strong request of the South Korean government in the first place, making it a key part of the agreement. Reversing that at this time is simply pandering to related civic groups that obstinately oppose the agreement.
Keep host country’s duty
Saying that the former comfort women want a “voluntary, sincere apology,” Kang also said that she hoped Japan would continue efforts to help the victims regain their honor. Her remarks seem to make light of the fact that the agreement incorporates Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s feelings of apology and remorse toward the victims.
The latest policy is based on a report about a review of the bilateral accord conducted by a task force of the South Korean Foreign Ministry. The report centers on criticism of the negotiating stance taken by the former administration of Park Geun-hye, who was president when the accord was reached, but is devoid of any convincing comments with regard to flaws in the accord. Shifting the responsibility onto Japan despite all this is unreasonable.
It can be considered reasonable that Foreign Minister Taro Kono emphasized, “We can’t accept any request at all from South Korea for Japan to take further measures.”
It is also hard to understand that Kang refrained from referring to the statue of a girl symbolizing comfort women, set up by a civic group in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
In the accord, the South Korean side promised it would make efforts to solve the issue of the statue. Yet the Moon administration has not, even now, embarked on concrete actions to remove the statue.
To protect the security and dignity of a foreign diplomatic establishment is a host country’s duty, as stipulated by an international convention. Should Seoul leave the girl’s statue as it stands, it would be inevitable for South Korea to be considered as a nation that disregards norms.