It has been a very long time since WWII, almost 75 years in fact. The plight of those affected has never been forgotten as the world moved on. A little-known fact was that during the war Japan forced somewhere between 20,000 and 200,000 Korean women to work in Japanese brothels. These ladies were referred to as “Comfort Women“, essentially they were forced into becoming prostitutes. Over the course of time, Japan has since apologized numerous times to South Korea for the wrongdoing. The South Korean government has never felt that Japan really meant the apology up until recently. As of the end of 2015, there were 46 living Korean Comfort Women in South Korea, just a tiny fraction of the thousands of lives that endured unthinkable treatment.
In December 2015, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met with Yun Byung-se the South Korean Foreign Minister in Seoul. The men discussed a formal apology from Japan for their negative treatment of Korean women during WWII as well as compensation for the damages. A deal was reached that both countries were able to agree upon. Japan gave approximately $8.3 million to the South Korean government as atonement. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is in his fourth consecutive term, continued his efforts to improve international relations with their neighboring country by calling the South Korean President at the time, Park Geun-hye, and apologizing yet again for their sins of the past.
After the completion of formal negotiations and apologies, South Korea and Japan were able to part on positive terms after reaching an affable agreement. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke of a new era beginning between the two countries. He wished to offer the younger generations a positive experience rather than focusing on problems of the past. Previous South Korean Prime Minister Park Geun-hye hoped that the agreement would finally ease the minds of the Korean Comfort Women even after so many years since the end of WWII. One Korean Comfort Woman, Lee Yong-soo aged 88 at the time, felt that the compensation was sufficient but firmly stated that the intent was not to seek money.
Reparations have been made making way for a new, positive relationship between South Korea and Japan. The newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who took office in 2017, has continued to work with Japan on peaceful terms with the past put behind them. The 2018 Winter Olympics are set to take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The timing could not have been timed more perfectly. The Olympics celebrate international unity and the coming together to enjoy competitive sports with the best athletes the world has to offer. Positive international relationships play a key role in government and such events at this. When everyone gathers together at the opening ceremony there will not be animosity over past mistakes but rather comradery over the many things that South Korean and Japan have in common. The Korean Comfort Women have been given the official apology that they truly deserve and a bright future awaits the two countries for making the positive decision to move forward together.