Prime Minister Noda: Comfort Women Issue Already Resolved
South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak visited Japan today to meet with Prime Minister Noda. Unfortunately, this week’s placing of a comfort woman “peace” statue in front of the Japanese embassy Seoul meant that Lee had to use the meeting to pander to his country’s anti-Japanese nationalists:
Japan, which insists the issue was legally settled four decades ago, promised only that it would “think carefully” from a humanitarian standpoint, but stopped well short of offering a fresh apology, officials said.
“South Korea and Japan should become real partners for peace and stability in this region,” the visiting South Korean president told his opposite number.
“And for that to happen, we need to have the courage to resolve as a priority the issue of military comfort women, which has been a stumbling block between our countries,” Lee said.
Noda, on his part, correctly calmly pointed out that the issue had already been resolved. In 1965, South Korea accepted payments from Japan, agreeing that the matter of individual compensation would be settled. Despite the legal settlement, Japan offered extra compensation payments and apologies to surviving comfort women in the 1990’s. The Japanese government has also issued numerous apologies to Korea and the other nations it occupied prior to 1945.
Lee, who once declared that he would not seek further apologies from Japan, seems to recognize that Korea’s new demands for compensation have zero legal standing:
“This is a matter of national sentiment and emotion rather than laws,” Lee said, urging Noda to make a “political” decision based on “warm heart”, rather than technical judgement.
“If there is no sincere measure, there will be second or third monuments like this whenever each old lady passes away,” Lee said, referring to the statue.
For some Japanese, this will appear to be a matter of national sentiment – of a nation that does not honor agreements and will never be satisfied.