Koreans Divided over ‘Comfort Women’ Agreement

As with many political issues, Korean netizens expressed highly contrasting opinions about the recent negotiation between Korea and Japan regarding the ‘comfort women’ issue. According to a survey from TNS, 53.3% of respondents viewed the negotiation’s outcome positively while 40.4% viewed it negatively. According to another survey from Realmeter, 43.2% viewed it positively while 50.7% viewed it negatively. In general, conservatives evaluated the agreement positively whereas opposition or left-aligned groups remained fiercely critical. The following article is from a popular conservative blog Liberalism.

Article from Liberalism:

Diplomacy is not conducted in consideration of your personal feelings


Sure, if comfort women were American, the Japanese Minister might have cried and begged for forgiveness in Washington like German Minister Brant did in Europe. Abe might have said “I am sorry” more often than “Good morning”. But the reality is that Korea’s national power is weaker than Japan’s. Isn’t it too childish to call Pres. Park Geun-hye an idiotic bitch and get all upset about the agreement? How on earth can we get an “unconditional surrender” from Japan?

Was Minister Yoon Byeon-se some sort of a judge in a court? Some comments sound like criticism towards unfair law enforcement, not a negotiation. Was the Korean minister in the position of a judge while the Japanese minister was the accused? Honestly, the meeting wouldn’t even have happened if it weren’t for American pressure. A judge controls how to apply absolute public authority but a negotiator has to give and take. How on earth do you expect Korea to draw an unconditional surrender from Japan? If it was possible at all, why did all those competent presidents and ministers fail to do so?

How much leverage do we have against Japan? Economy? Military? The international community’s support? Do we have enough power to deal with Japan’s diplomatic power heads-on? Human rights? Do you know how inconsistent their attention to “human rights” is in the international community who aren’t exactly total angels? Do you think countries like Germany, the U.S. and France would bother confronting Japan because they love human rights so much? Really? For your information, countless political figures such as Merkel, the British crown prince, and Michelle Obama have visited Japan while dust was piling up at the gates of our Blue House. Do you think the world is on our side? For real?

I see comments like “It would’ve been better if they hadn’t reached any agreement then.” or “Do your job right.” One of the main complaints about our government was that they seem to be just waiting until all the victims passed away, wasn’t it? Every year about 10 victims pass away now. So what if we keep failing to reach any agreement? Is it better if we don’t negotiate at all then? You ask what right the government has to negotiate on behalf of the victims? Then should the government take a hands-off approach to the comfort women issue? Now will “the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan” [Jeong-dae-hyeop] handle everything on their own? Some criticize Japan for just throwing a billion yen at the problem. If Japan didn’t decide to pay at all, they would call it an empty apology or worse than the Asian Women’s Fund. Some say it is merely a billion yen. But if Japan decided to pay more, then they would say Japan is trying to bury the issue with money.

Some say we should ask Japan to teach their students about comfort women to younger generations in their textbooks. We had a negotiation in Seoul. We did not occupy Tokyo and force them to sign an agreement. Even when we apologize to Vietnam about the war, do we promise that we will write about it in our textbooks for the next generation? Two nations reached an agreement. It is not like Japan is instructed by Korea to write an apology letter. In what kind of diplomatic documents in the world do you write “We will record our wrongdoings in our textbooks and teach them to our children for generations”? Please let me know if you know any such case.

Removal of the comfort woman statue? They only said “they will try to resolve the issue properly”. Nothing indicates that the statue will be removed. Also, it is not about all comfort woman statues. It is about the one that can cause a problem because of the Treaty of Vienna. Is it something sacred? Has it become Jerusalem? As a signer of the treaty, it is our duty to try to comply with it if there is an issue. Of course, they will investigate if the statue violates the treaty first. If not, it is likely that they will not move it. Even after all victims pass away, maybe some would continue their eternal battle using the statue.

Some say Japan just removed “moral” from “moral responsibility”. Do you not know the difference honestly? This is the first official document that acknowledges “responsibility” of the Japanese government. Japan admitted to military involvement and issued an apology on behalf of the Prime Minister. If this was such a shitty negotiation, what would be a good one? If there is another country that can receive such a response from a country that is several times more powerful, I really want to know who they are.

Honestly, it feels like listening to the howling of speaker feedback. More, more, more. The victims’ grudge will not be resolved even if Japan sinks into the sea and Abe died with his guts spilled out. However, such personal feelings cannot work in diplomacy between nations. If you are not happy with such negotiations, why don’t you go ahead and ask them to declare a war? Just what do you expect? If you think this is all because the ruling party and Park Geun-hye are idiots, show me what secrets the opposition party will use when they seize power in order to reenact the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. I expect them to show us the Japanese Prime Minister’s bowing on the ground.

Comments from Liberalism:

Korea’s extreme “seonbeeism” [ideological stubbornness without pragmatism] always led to a tragic demise. Did any of those who were obsessed with upholding pro-Ming policies during Gwanghaegun’s rule take any responsibility after the Qing invasion? The trap Korean journalists and citizens can easily fall into is this stubbornness. The attitude that regards any result that does not completely reflect their demands as a defeat. Koreans would still complain even if they take 9 out of 10 because one is missing. Considering Japan’s huge international influence and the 1960 agreement between the two nations, is it a small feat to receive an apology and compensations from their top leader? Those Koreans may not be satisfied even if Abe and his ministers come to Korea, kneel down on the ground and apologize. It is difficult to even put a single comma in diplomatic documents between the two nations. How can you downplay the politicians’ efforts so easily? Do you want to say Germany apologized sincerely? All lies. Sure, they apologized to the Jews. But they overlooked Ethiopia and other African countries where they also committed massacres. Receiving apologies is a privilege that comes with having power. Sure, Koreans. Keep on living like that. Stubbornly demand what is impossible with your cheap seonbee pride. It would surely feel nice to reach nowhere and miss out on everything.

Why should the government get approval from the victims? It is a matter where Northeast Asian politics, Korea-Japan relations, and the economy should be comprehensively considered. The nation should rationally seek for balance in the interest of every citizen. Of course, the victims’ personal feelings are intense, which may keep them from making a rational decision. Trying to get approval from the Sewol victims’ families. Trying to get approval from comfort women. Trying to implement immigration policies using marriage immigrant women’s opinions. If we keep doing this, balanced national polices are a pipe dream. We lose the ability to make judgements in light of the big picture. It will cause situations where we end up sacrificing national interests for a small group of people. We cannot ignore the victims’ opinions but it is also wrong to think their approval is essential when national policies are implemented.

We should not forget the tragedy of the comfort women in our history. But so many Korean men were drafted and killed or kidnapped in Korean War. Do we remember them, too? After all, our perceptions are biased due to political interests and stronger sympathy for women. We cannot soothe every single individual who was victimized in our long history. We cannot implement foreign policies listening to every victim’s personal opinion. Maybe the victims would feel a bit better if Abe commited suicide at Gwanghwamun Square and his children were beaten to death, but such things will never happen.


Germany apologized? To the Jews. Has Germany ever apologized to and compensated African countries they colonized? Don’t make me laugh. If Jewish people were not so influential, would they have been able to get such apologies? Along with the Jews, gypsies were also massacred. The estimates range between 220,000 and 1.5 million. Has Germany apologized to and compensated them? In diplomacy, national power is the basis for receiving an apology. Do you think the world is on our side just because the US adopted a few resolutions and statues were placed for comfort women? Korea does not surpass Japan in terms of economy, military or technologies. If we call them Jap monkeys, do they really become stupid monkeys? It would be us who look like retarded monkeys on the diplomatic stage. How can we underestimate Japan and China when we don’t have the power to back it up? Those Koreans are merely acting like crazy people. If you want to receive an apology in the way you want, equal national power is the minimum requirement.


Keyboard diplomats are fucking disgusting for real, kekeke. After drinking their heart out during the weekend, now they are emotionally yapping their mouth after reading a few lines on Facebook, kekeke. It should’ve been like this or that. This or that is regrettable. They try so hard to act like Enlightened Citizens although they know nothing about the complicated problems between Korea and Japan and how many countries’ interests are intertwined, kekeke. If you read comments on Facebook, it is like Korea has hundreds of Zhuge Liangs, kekeke. Why doesn’t our government hire them as diplomats so they can dig up Japanese war criminals’ graves and execute them again? Kekeke.

Gyu Hwan Shin

Those who are critical of emotionalism and in favor of the agreement commonly say there is nothing more we can achieve in this diplomatic matter. Of course, this isn’t completely wrong. It is obvious that we cannot get 100% of what we want ideally. Nonetheless, at least, since this was supposed to be the final official negotiation regarding the issue, should it not have included a clause that the Japanese government admits they share the responsibility? Of course, I know the negotiators did their best. But it is regrettable that ambiguous expressions could still cause discord. When there is a problem between two parties, the offender should apologize in order for both to move forward. Of course, we cannot say they did not apologize. But can we call it a true apology if there is room for ambiguous interpretation? Personally, I feel we took one and gave away 9 out of 10. It is so pathetic and irritating that this is the outcome of our full diplomatic capacity. At the same time, I do not understand those who bash the government at all.

Japan first denied any involvement of the military. After relevant documents were discovered, they admitted that the military was partially involved. The Kono statement emphasized the responsibility of the Japanese military, not the government. The current agreement did not really progress from that. If they argue that it was sole responsibility of the military, they can claim that they bear no responsibility. The original objective of the negotiation was to make the Japanese government admit their own responsibility. We couldn’t achieve that. So what was this about? Some say I didn’t even read the agreement properly, but I did. I checked the Kono statement, too. At least for a final resolution some time after the Kono statement, it is proper to stipulate an agreement without room for different interpretation. Compensation is a secondary matter.

Kim Jeong-hun

The government did not even ask the victims for their opinions. Formal investigations and a promise to write about comfort women in their textbooks among the seven demands Jeong-dae-hyeop has made are missing in this agreement. Investigations are needed to accurately measure the damage and it should be written in textbooks so that they will not have distorted views after generations have passed. Can we still say the issue was resolved? Japan brought up the comfort woman statue soon after they made an apology. Can you say the apology was sincere then? Abe didn’t apologize to the victims in person. He didn’t bow down in front of the media, either. Someone else read his apology. Can you say it was sincere? After all, can you not predict that Japan will officially have one less burden after this apology and push for exercising collective self-defense along with growing nationalism? Diplomacy cannot depend on emotions but even rationally, don’t you find it strange that Abe and his far-right wing figures changed their stance overnight? You ask if the world is on our side? Do you know that the UN Human Rights Council has criticized Japan’s handling of the comfort women issue every year? Also, Jeong-dae-hyeop and the victims do activities regarding the Korean military’s war crimes during the Vietnam War and all women victimized in wartime around the world. Do you think it is proper to claim that the issue has been resolved although you were not personally victimized or involved in any activities? Why is it our burden to understand Japan’s apology? I guess you guys would all just understand even if someone randomly hit you in the face as long as they say sorry afterwards?

Youngkyu Park

If we could defeat Japan heads-on, we might have received an apology in the way we want. However, I think our government did their best despite our lesser national power. Of course, it will not fully heal the victims’ wounds. After this agreement, I hope Japan reflects on their atrocities as Germany does every year and we should keep pressuring all symbols of their imperialism to get stigmatized just like how Nazism was banned in Germany.

Jaeho Lee

I see many who would still say Japan’s apology is not sincere even if Abe commits suicide at Gwanghwamun Square. I don’t fully agree with the writer, but why can we not be pragmatic with Japan even after we reconciled with China who was our enemy in the Korean War about 60 years ago? They say there is no eternal ally or enemy. If we pursue pragmatic diplomacy, we need to be more forward-looking with Japan. Also, an irreversible final agreement means Japan cannot officially claim comfort women are all lies and Japan had no responsibility. This negotiation was successful that there are even calls from other countries like Taiwan, Indonesia, and Philippines for the same level of apologies from Japan, too. If Japan overturns their position again, all blame will be put on their shoulders. Japan can be criticized from all sides if that happens. Now it is time to watch if the Japanese government properly implements the agreement.

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