70 years after the end of World War II, Japan are finally apologising for some of the horrible shit they did in South Korea. Specifically, forcing up to 200,000 women into sexual slavery for Japanese Army brothels. On Monday, Japan and South Korea finished negotiations with an announcement that the Japanese government would be paying 1 billion yen (£6 million) to the aging victims of the “comfort women” system. But is this deal really all it’s cracked up to be?
For starters, that money probably won’t be going to the survivors themselves. Instead, it’ll be going towards a fund to provide support and projects to “recover the honour and dignity and heal the psychological wounds” for the 46 elderly victims still living, which will be controlled by the South Korean government.
These women would have been in their teens or younger when they were traumatised and have been living with that for 70 years. Shouldn’t this victim support have started a lot earlier, before they reached their 80s and 90s? Shouldn’t a deal have been made during the decades of protests?
Sure, these women will be getting an apology as well, but the real winners are the politicians involved. Included in the deal is a clause that disallows the two countries from criticising each other about this publicly. Essentially, Shinzo Abe has paid hush money so that South Korea won’t pipe up at the UN, while their government gets to sit back and say to the protesters that they’ve finally resolved the issue. Were there any victims present when this was discussed?
Of course, this sudden deal has nothing to do with the USA wanting both countries to make nice and cooperate as a buffer against an expanding China.
Japan aren’t the only country with sexual violence in their past; pretty much every war has seen sexual abuse and rape perpetrated by people on both sides – South Korea itself was guilty of this during the Vietnam War. However, it was Imperial Japan that turned it into a large scale industry in occupied territories. For years the country has tried to sidestep the issue, offering informal apologies or even questioning whether the women were coerced at all instead of taking legal responsibility.
The politicians and the international community may have gotten a nice headline to end the year, but those 46 survivors will lose out until none are left to carry on the fight.