Progress on "Comfort Women"? Survivors Say No!

CATW International February 2, 2016 South Korea

Photo Credit: Chang Jin-Lee

In December 2015, the Japanese and South Korean governments reached an agreement meant to resolve the dispute between the two countries over "Comfort Women" — the hundreds of thousands of women and girls (the majority Korean) trafficked and sexually enslaved by Japan prior to and during World War II. As detailed in the New York Times, the agreement includes a vague apology as well as the creation of an $8.3 million fund from the Japanese government to provide support to survivors. In return, Seoul promised, among other items, to stop criticisms of Tokyo over the issue. 

However, the accord fell short of meeting the demands articulated by survivors countless times over the years. Coming on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the 50th anniversary of the normalization of Japanese-South Korean relations, this agreement is meant to smooth diplomatic tensions and foster an economic partnership between the two countries. 

Survivors as well as activists in South Korea and around the world have denounced the accord. Our allies at the Korean American Forum of California issued a statement that clarifies our collective concern and points out key pieces missing from the agreement: 

  • - Full recognition of Japan’s historical responsibility for the systematic human trafficking of women and girls for sexual enslavement. 
  • - Acknowledgement of the coercion experienced by “Comfort Women.” 
  • - An official, unequivocal apology stemming from the National Diet and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his governmental capacity that cannot be retracted in the future. 

As 88-year-old survivor "Halmoni" Lee Yongsoo said, “This agreement seems to have been made without having the victims in mind. I dismiss it in its entirety.”

Much more is needed until justice is served. With fellow activists worldwide, CATW will continue urging Prime Minister Abe to recognize Japan's role in the sexual enslavement of "Comfort Women." Our Change.org petition is still active. Please continue to sign and share widely!

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