Comfort women agreement must engage civil society

Lee Ok Son, 88, a South Korean woman who was forced to work in a Japanese wartime military brothel, speaks at a press conference at the parliament building in Tokyo on 26 January 2016. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Mary M. McCarthy, Drake University

In the aftermath of North Korea’s recent nuclear test, experts quickly attested to its significance for the 28 December agreement between Japan and South Korea on the ‘comfort women’ issue. The nuclear test provides a pressing reason for why the historical legacy issues that have plagued the South Korea–Japan relationship must be resolved and a means to further solidify the burgeoning thaw in those relations. Read more…

Public divided over ‘comfort women’ agreement

South Korean demonstrators hold up pictures of deceased former ‘comfort women’ during a rally near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, 30 December 2015. (Photo: AAP).

Authors: Trevor Kennedy, UBC, and Misato Nagakawa, RJIF

On 28 December 2015, the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea surprised the world with the announcement of a deal designed to ‘finally and irreversibly’ conclude the long-standing ‘comfort women’ dispute. Both South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have championed the agreement, but the deal’s implementation is fraught with difficulty. Read more…

Is South Korean democracy under attack?

South Korean President Park Geun-hye answers a reporter's question during her news conference at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, 13 January 2016. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Chungshik Moon, ANU

2015 was a challenging year for South Korea’s democracy. Since the inauguration of the Park Geun-hye government in 2013 there have been a number of incidents that raise serious questions about the soundness and maturity of South Korea’s democracy. Read more…

Japan–ROK ‘comfort women’ agreement not so final?

A statue of a girl symbolising the issue of "comfort women" in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mark Caprio, Rikkyo University

The ‘irreversible’ agreement signed recently by the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers to bring closure to the ‘comfort women’ issue already shows signs of reversal, even as the ink dries. The logjam centres on the golden ‘comfort women’ statue that has glared outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul since it was erected by activists in 2011.

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Park Yuha indictment risks hindering ROK–Japan reconciliation

Protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on 13 January 2016 to oppose the Japan-South Korea agreement over the issue of ‘comfort women’. (Photo: AAP).

Author: Kazuhiko Togo, Kyoto Sangyo University

All eyes have been on North Korea since it made the announcement on 6 January that it possesses hydrogen bombs. The possibility of conflict with a nuclear North Korea means that it is more important than ever for Japan and South Korea to find a common position. Read more…

South Korean liberal democracy Parked in

South Korean President Park Geun-hye speaks during a regular meeting with her top aides at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Kee-seok Kim, Kangwon National University

The international media spent 2015 criticising South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s government and its policies, and the criticisms are visibly increasing in frequency. The topics range from history textbooks to excessive use of force by riot police, but they share one theme: serious concern for South Korean political democracy. Read more…

The US the big winner in ‘comfort women’ agreement

People protesting the recent landmark deal between Japan and South Korea over comfort women in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. (Photo: AAP)

Author: Mikyoung Kim, Hiroshima Peace Institute

When ‘unthinkable’ events happen, they can change the course of history. The bilateral agreement reached by South Korea and Japan over ‘comfort women’ on 28 December 2015 was one such ‘unthinkable’ event. Read more…