Now that this ugly chapter has been officially politically closed, perhaps Japan and South Korea can focus on China and its vassal state, North Korea:
THE bronze statue of a teenage “comfort woman” in Seoul, South Korea’s capital, is intended as a daily rebuke to the Japanese embassy opposite. The figure represents one of many thousands of Korean women who were forced to serve as prostitutes in wartime military brothels catering to imperial Japanese soldiers. Citizens’ groups paid for the figure to be erected in 2011 when relations between Japan and South Korea were at a nadir. Well-wishers bring her flowers, shoes and, in stormy weather, even a hat and raincoat. Yet now the statue is meant to move elsewhere as part of a landmark agreement struck between the two countries on December 28th to try to settle their dispute over comfort women once and for all—and transform dangerously strained relations.
Of former sex slaves who have come forward in South Korea, only 46 survive. Under the deal, South Korea will set up a fund for them into which the Japanese government will pay $8.3m for their medical and nursing care. The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has expressed “sincere apologies and remorse” for their suffering, which was appalling. In all, there were tens of thousands of comfort women. Many were raped dozens of times a day, beaten and infected with venereal diseases. …
Yet both sides have good reason to try to make it stick, for the bilateral relationship could quickly improve, on military matters as well as others. For instance, an agreement to share military intelligence that was scuppered in 2012 could be revived. The benefits could also show in trade diplomacy, with Japan and America working together to bring South Korea into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade grouping recently agreed among a dozen countries. With luck, the idea of two democracies in a dangerous corner of the world not talking to each other will soon look too absurd to go back to.