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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  • terriblemovie

    Can you guys translate a left-leaning site next?

    Some of the comments are disappointing but not surprising. I’m no fan of Korean conservatives and their blind support of Park Geun Hye and dog eat dog view of the world. They will defend her, this deal, and her dictator father regardless of reason. They want Korea to accept the deal in order to make Parks negotiations appear successful with no regard for the actual victims (the comfort women). It may be true that Korea won more in the end but its still inexcusable for Japan to demand that the statues be relocated. Korea shouldn’t give an inch when it comes to the statue.

    They don’t seem to realize that Korea has far more allies and international influence on this issue then Japan does. These paleo conservatives are stuck in the 1960/1970, literally. From personal experience, a large number of these paleo conservatives are old timers who were left behind by Koreas rapid modernization. They still view Japan as if it was still some wealthy, influential, powerhouse country while Korea is still a 3rd world country. Pretty much every mainstream historian and the UN sides with Korea on this issue.

    Its good to see that some of the commentators saw through the BS. We need more conservatives like Kim Jeong Hun. The fact of the matter is, its the comfort women who deserve the apology. They are their victims, their opinions obviously matter.

  • Brad Will

    So much more diverse and mature responses from Korean people, compared to the Japanese people with uniformly same responses here.


    • Papi

      Because the Korean translations are from a niche political blog and the Japanese ones are from a tabloid like BBS. It’s almost as if KB and JC have an agenda.

      Go on Naver or Damn to read the usual tantrums from the netizens screaming about how they should spit on the money and how no apology will ever be enough and how Japan and America are to blame for all their problems. So utterly predictable and delusional.

      What a coincidence that Korea suddenly wanted this issue to go away when it suddenly came to light from a Korean academic that the women were all recruited by Korean men. The fact is that the members of the Korean resistance movement all ended up north of the DMZ after the war so if you’re South Korean or of South Korean descent then your grandparents or great grandparents were collaborators and that is a face South Korean society can never acknowledge.

      • Hatsune Miku

        I think your last paragraph is a little too generalizing.

        The claim that the Korean independence movement all ended up north of the DMZ is also extremely wildly inaccurate.

        Some senior figures in the movement, such as Ji Cheongcheon and Lee Beomseok, who were the leaders of the Kwangbok forces remained in the South and even served in the South’s government well beyond the Korean War. The former was even an officer in the IJA, and later defected to the movement, hence having done both.

        One should really note that the Koreans were already politically divided long before the Japanese even surrendered in WW2. The Kwangbok army under the Provisional Government at its peak reached up to 40,000 troops who were under Chinese Nationalist command, manned by Koreans living in both the peninsula, Manchuria and the Chinese mainland.

        At the same time, the Chinese Communists also had a similarly-sized number of Koreans fighting under their banner, known as the KVA/Korean Volunteers’ Army, which was also heavily connected with the Soviets.

        The latter didn’t even return to the peninsula until 1949, after the civil war in China was over and they formed the nucleus of the North Korean military. Ironically, this bunch also had a fair number of men who had served under the Japanese at one point in their military careers.

        So really, it’s not that clear-cut.

  • commander

    There is a considerable perception gap on sex slavery deal.

    For critics, the agreement is seen as falling much short of what they think of as a righteous demand to Japan: clear-cut official admission of state responsibility and adequate reparation to victims.

    But supporters of the deal think that the 1965 treaty, stipulating the settlement of all colonial claims between two countries, deprives South Korea of the right to make a claim to Japan with respect to wartime sexual enslavement.

    Although an argument is suggested that the comfort women issue is not appropriately addressed in the 1965 pact, it is unclear whether the text of the treaty allows such an interpretation, for which Japan has consistently taken a negative stance.

    To put two stances together, a dilemma emerges for South Korea: Continuously demanding the formal acknolwdgement of state responsibility, apology and reparation, which are unlikely accepted by Japan where revisionism is increasingly regarded as a ticket for political success in rising conservative political climate. Or seeking the best among the achievable.

    Those who are less critical of the agreement appears to believe that it is hard to realize the demands of opponents’ demands, meaning that wishes of sexual slavery survivors are paradoxically hard to accomplish as they would be met with strong resistance and skepticism in conservative Japan.

    And this hints at the chances that suvivors at advanced ages may not see any apology from Japan before they pass away, a poignant scene that no South Koreans would want to see.

    And proponents of the deal say that although the comfort women issue is of huge importamce to the nation as a whole, the country should also take into account, trilateral cooperation involving South Korea, the United States and Japan for North Korea’s denuclearization. North Korea’s forth nuclear detonation, with its claim of a successful hydrogen bomb test dismissed as bluster and hype, points to a set of challenges facing South Korea, in addition to resolution of comfort women issue. Bilatetal cooperation is also required in trade, and investment when China-South Korea free trade agreement raise the prospect of a Bejing-Seoul-Japan free trade area.

    And more importantly, they note that continued chills in Seoul-Tokyo relations would set the breeding ground for a more flourishing of ultra conservatives in Japan, where what they frame as South Korea’s overblown victimization is portrayed as the culprit of aggravated bilateral ties, making any future attempts at reconciliation more unlikely to be successful if the ruptured relations continue. Thus, supporters’ mindset may be encapsulated as “one step backward for two steps forward down the road.”

    But critics say that th latest deal is a product of political expediency because victims, who in their view, are only ones entitled to forgive, have not been consulted on negotiations leading to the sex slavery agreement.

    Some say the agreement may feels like a double backstabbing, expressing disbelief and frustration with their goverment, which repeatedly proclaims it will stand by them, but for them words have hardly translated into action.

    Some observers say that the Park administration has enjoyed high approval ratings in foreing policy areas.

    One of the reasons is, they say, that the president remains steadfast in her demand for Japan’s sincere apology for wartime sexual atrocties while Japan’s coservatives have sought the denial of involvement.

    But the abrupt change of course in the handling of comfort women issue by the Park administration raises the question of whether political eagerness to achieve a foreign policy legacy is a motivation behind the deal that was seen as hurriedly sealed, critics say.

    • vonskippy

      And then there’s the other 99.99% of the world who just doesn’t give a shit.

      It happened A) seven freaking decades ago and B) in a freaking war. Most people learn that when the treaty that ends the war is signed – IT’S OVER and move on.

      Not Korea, lets just keep kicking that dead horse over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.


      I have jewish neighbors, they don’t run over to my house every other week and demand an apology and then cry and cry and cry and cry that it just didn’t seem sincere enough.

      I didn’t do anything, they didn’t do anything, it all happened a long long time ago to people many generations ago – so being grown ups, my neighbor and I (and the wives, and the kids, and the dogs) all get along just fine.

      • commander

        First, In debate for exchange of ideas, an emotionally charged response almost always draws no favorable nods. The above reply sounds heckling.

        Second, saying itself that the Korean War is a thing of the past clearly shows lack of understanding of its enduring impact on the Korean Peninsula and regional order in Northeast Asia.

        • vonskippy

          “The above reply sounds heckling”

          Ya think?

          The Koreans have been whining about this topic for 3/4’s of a century – it’s way past the point of a logic discussion. You would think as some of the old timers died off, so would the problem – but nooooooooo, Korea just can’t move on. Therefore yes, the rest of the world is heckling Korea for being mired in the past and acting like children.

          As to understanding the position between South and North – I think the world pretty much understands that as well. South sat on their heels and let the North build up the military infrastructure to make any move by the South a painful one. To top it off, some of the South continue on with the nonsense of unification. Finally, instead of shunning the crazy North, the South capitulates on practically everything the North demands (can you say Kaesong Industrial Region).

          Now with Fatty Kim Junior at the helm, even the Chinese can barely tolerate their sacrificial boarder padding – yet both China and SK keep feeding the rabid dog chained in the vacant lot between the two.

          You would think SK would focus on their neighbor problem and stop whining about something that happened oh so long ago, but nooooooo.

          Ironically all the rhetoric about evil Japan seems to end at the shopping district when all those SK’s take a quick hop over to Japan for a huge shopping spree. I demand a sincere apology…(stomping feet)….ooooh, will you take 1000 yen less for that handbag (squeals in shopping delight).

          • James

            Well that’s because it didn’t happen to you so it’s easy for you to say. Your Jewish neighbors still feel the pain of the holocaust I guarantee it. Why don’t you tell them to grow up and just forget about it and don’t mention it ever again. Basically you are saying I can go to war with you as the agressor and then after we sign a treaty we can just forget it ever happened. What kind of idiot are you?

          • Dave Park

            The thing that bothers most Koreans are that Japanese ultraconservative politicians are denying that it ever happened and/or justifying the reasons as to why it happened. History textbooks get whitewashed in defending Japan’s imperialism. And that there are ultraconservative vehicles blasting their rightwing propaganda in major cities.
            How else can Korean people see it?

            You’re saying that everything is fine because it happened decades ago and everyone should just move on. I agree. HOWEVER, as long as there are ultraconservatives who flat out deny the wartime atrocities that their fathers and grandfathers conducted and condoned, it becomes a more complex issue.

            Your Jewish neighbors moved on because Germany officially recognizes, made appropriate reparations, made official apologies, and, most importantly, does not deny/justify their actions.
            Could you have imagined that post-war Germany officially denied that the holocaust happened or that the Jews were killed for just reasons?

            I wish that South Korea would move on and focus more on current and future issues. But there are things that cannot and should not be forgotten ESPECIALLY if there are politicians across the sea who are denying/justifying wartime atrocities.

            And with the whole shopping thing you mentioned at the end of your rant. You should see the Japanese tourists that go to Myeongdong.

          • Gerhana

            Pop a pill.

          • Pandabearnanke

            “South sat on their heels and let the North build up the military infrastructure to make any move by the South a painful one”

            What are you talking about? Before the Korean War? After? After the Korean war the entire country was devastated and neither China or the US wanted to keep backing the Koreas in a war. So your entire argument is flawed. Are you saying the South’s should’ve done a pre-emptive strike on the North (without the support of the US, with worldwide condemnment and no chance of winning). Boy I’m sure you’d be the first one to volunteer huh?

            “Finally, instead of shunning the crazy North, the South capitulates on practically everything the North demands (can you say Kaesong Industrial Region).”

            Yeah because shunning the North works so well. The idea behind engagement is that if the North’s economy improves they could become like post-Maoist China or Vietnam today. Repressive but capitalist and not batshit crazy. Didn’t work but I can’t blame them for trying.

            “yet both China and SK keep feeding the rabid dog chained in the vacant lot between the two.”

            The best out of a bad situation, something a keyboard pundit like you would never understand. Your world being one of black and white easy solutions.

      • nitrostat

        u sure you don’t give a shit?

      • 8820025168

        Refrain yourself being stupid. Nobody ask you for your opinion.

      • Pandabearnanke

        Who the hell are you to tell anyone to “get the fuck over it”?

        Germany has done a ton more than Japan. I don’t agree with it but they jail Holocaust deniers, and I can’t imagine rightwing Germans being allowed to demonstrate that Jewish Germans go home like the Zaitokukai are allowed to do in Zanichi neighborhoods.

  • bumfromkorea


    Well, that was a nice 17 days of pretending that the apology (they mean it this time!) meant anything.

  • Terry “Death to Equality” Xu

    The comparison with Will Brandt is simply not legitimate. I hear this from the Chinese community too, with no regard to the political circumstances of the day.

    Brandt was an anti-Nazi, completely opposed to the right in Germany. He is essentially making an apology on behalf of his enemy, and how hard is that?

    The equivalent of Japanese leaders apologizing would be Hitler apologizing, not someone who opposed Hitler to begin with

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