The meeting in Seoul between South Korea’s director general for northeast Asian affairs, Lee Sang-deok and his Japanese counterpart, Junichi Ihara, was the first official negotiation regarding the issue, a source of diplomatic tension.
Up to 200,000 women were coerced into working at front-line brothels as “comfort women” for Japanese soldiers during the war, and the grievances of 55 known survivors have not yet been resolved. Both sides agreed to hold monthly meetings at the director general level.
The surviving women and the South Korean government seek an apology that a number of Japanese say was made in 1993, when then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono accepted Japanese responsibility for the state-run brothels, extending his nation’s “sincere apologies and remorse.”
The apology is a source of contention that some in Japan want to see revised. A statement by Hiroshi Yamada of the opposition Japan Restoration Party noted, “Japan had state-run prostitution just like other countries in the world, around World War II.”
The suggestion that so many women, mainly Korean, were actual prostitutes or sex slaves angers some Japanese.