A CHRONICLE OF EVENTS Regarding the issues of the Comfort Women, the Conscripted Civilians, and GSOMIA
The relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have moved from a case of “irritation” to that of “seismic rocking” lately. In other words, the bilateral relations have become worse than ever.
The current situation stems from the two issues regarding the comfort women and the conscripted civilians during wartime as everyone knows. Its spillover is the ROK announcement on August 23, 2019 to scrap the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) it signed with Japan in 2016.
I briefly chronicle major events herein to recognize factors that are vital to understand the current situation and a direction the ROK is heading for. It is easy to question the nation’s “Moral Justice” that runs as an undercurrent in the mind of the Koreans. What was right at a time would often become wrong later, according to their moral justice. I would say it does not fully explain what is going on in the ROK. More important questions I must ask are as follows:
(1) What do they want to achieve?
(2) What is behind their belligerent attitudes?
(3) Where are they trying to find their home?
An overview of the past events would give us an answer, I believe. I printed keywords and sentences in boldface below, attaching also a supplementary note in the parentheses with an asterisk.
Hidemi Nagao, Novelist, Non-fiction Writer, living on pension in Yokohama, Japan
A CHRONICLE OF EVENTS
1965 The Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea was signed on June 22, which established diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea. On the same day, the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea was also signed. The gist of Article 2.1 of the Agreement is that both nations confirms that the issue of claims regarding the property, rights, and profits of the signatory nations and their nationals has been resolved finally and irreversibly on the date of signing of the Agreement. The judicial decisions of late in the ROK concluded that the agreement did not solve the issue pertaining to individual citizens.
1973 Seiji Yoshida published a book in which he wrote he had abducted hundreds of Korean women from Cheju to make them comfort women in warfront. His admission of abduction was later disproved but his book has been quoted by many people. (*“Even an obvious fabrication is some comfort when you have few others,” according to Margaret Atwood.)
1973 Kako Senda published a book in which he said the military forcibly taken away 200,000 Korean women in the name of labor force, 50,000 to 70,000 of whom had been made comfort women in warfront. Though he misquoted a source, his false quotation has frequently been used by certain intellectuals as a fact—200,000 Korean women were abducted and forcibly made sexual slaves. (*Reasonably speaking, 200,000 women had 400,000 parents, 800,000 grandparents, and probably 50,000 brothers and sisters in the Korean Peninsula in those days. Had the 200,000 been a credible estimate, 1.25 million family members must have inundated police authorities and the mass media with innumerable complaints because their daughters/granddaughters/sisters disappeared without reason. The Korean Peninsula had a population of 22.95 million in 1940 and 25.12 million in 1944. No one has yet unearthed official records of complaints or newspaper articles that referred to hundreds of thousands of the missing women. Had a case like that occurred somewhere in the world, then or now, it would have wreaked havoc in the society.)
1976 The ROK Ministry of Economy and Finance published in December the White Paper Regarding the Claims’ Fund. Japan provided the ROK—over a ten-year period—with a loan of 200 million dollars and a grant of 300 million dollars, based on the 1965 Agreement (*Another loan of 300 million dollars was provided by Japan’s private sectors). The ROK government enacted a law in 1966 and established the Claims’ Fund Management Committee to sanction programs to which the Fund was to be allocated. The intent of the ministry’s publishing the White Paper was to officially and publicly explain how much money had been spent for each program.
The White Paper’s Book I (Chapter 3, Section 3) mentioned a compensation policy toward its citizens. Its gist is as follows: “Upon finalization of the Fund available from the Japanese government regarding the Claims, the ROK government considered it necessary to execute compensations for citizens without delay. The government, however, postponed the execution until the fiscal year 1975. It was to prioritize the nation’s fiscal condition, improve the national income, and develop the industrial infrastructure.” As a result, a large portion of the Fund was used to develop the industrial infrastructure, reflecting President Park Chung-hee’s intention.
The ROK government made a public announcement from May 1971 to March 1972 to accept applications from individual citizens for compensation of Japan’s national bonds, savings in bank, postal money orders, life insurance, etc. The compensation policy included applications from families of troops and conscripted civilians who lost life on or before August 15, 1945.
The government issued in 1974 and 1975 a law and an enforcement order to compensate for the civilians. It began to execute the compensatory procedure from July 1975. And the White Paper states all compensation procedures would be completed by June 30, 1977.
1982 Major dailies and TV networks reported on June 26 that the Education Ministry—in the course of screening a new history book to be used at high school—had recently intervened in the text editing to rephrase “the invasion” to “the advancement” to Northern China. As early as June 30, the Mainichi Shimbun admitted the initial report had been erroneous because there was, in fact, no rephrasing in the pertinent part of the history book. The initial report, however, upset the Chinese and the South Koreans over a few months thereafter. The South Koreans denounced the rewrite as an attempt to evade and minimize Japan’s responsibilities for colonialization of the Korean Peninsula. On July 30, a ministry official took a stand at a House of Representatives committee and said, “There was no alleged rephrasing in the relevant textbook.” From August through September, major dailies admitted the initial report had been based on false information. The unsolicited fuss, nevertheless, has given the South Koreans an impetus to criticize Japan as having historical revisionism whenever a historic issue develops between the two nations. (*Speaking of Yoksa (역사history)-palo (바로straight)-seugi (세우기erecting) is fine. But Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., said this about history, “The use of history as therapy means the corruption of history as history.”)
1983 Seiji Yoshida donated a cenotaph in the ROK to apologize for having abducted Korean women to take to comfort stations (*Despite his admission later of fabricating the abduction).
1987 Roh Tae-woo, presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Justice Party of the ROK, gave a speech titled the Special Declaration for Grand National Harmony and Progress Towards a Great Nation (the June 29 Declaration). The speech, in serious consideration of the on-going waves of demonstrations in the streets for democracy, presented eight points of reform such as direct election of the president, freedom of speech, and protection of human rights. Though Roh was a retired Army general, he won the presidential election later in the year and became the 13th President in 1988. He successfully hosted the Summer Olympic Game. Since then, the public at large considered the nation to have been “democratized” and civic groups began to launch a variety of campaigns on social issues, one of which was their attention to the comfort women issue.
1889 Emperor Hirohito passed away on January 7. A coalition of women’s groups issued to the ROK government a statement to oppose its dispatching of a condolence mission to the emperor’s funeral in Japan. The coalition, at the same time, demanded the Japanese government to apologize for conscripted civilians. The conscripted civilians were mistakenly understood as the comfort women in Korea those days.
1989 The Berlin Wall with a death strip alongside began to be chipped away after East German people climbed the wall to go to West Berlin in November. Upon reunification of East and West Germanies in 1990, the wall was demolished in 1992. The fall of the Cold War structure gave the ROK a chance to establish formal ties with former East Bloc nations: It established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union (Russia today) in 1990 and with the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) in 1992, after severing the tie with the Republic of China. In the meantime, the ROK joined the United Nations along with North Korea (DPRK). The ROK began to promote omnidirectional diplomacy and trade, which made its security and economic dependence on the U.S. and Japan less important than before, despite such a thorn as the DPRK nuclear development program. It follows that the ROK interest in maintaining dialog with Japan gradually lost momentum in the meantime.
1990 Professor Yun Jong-ok contributed to the Hankyoreh Shinmun a four-part article on the “conscripted civilians” from January 4 to 24. The conscripted civilians (wartime laborers) are not related to the comfort women though the article was about the comfort women.
1990 Shin Kanemaru, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party delegation, and Makoto Tanabe, leader of the Socialist Party delegation visited Pyongyang on September 26 and met General Secretary Kim Il-sung of the Workers’ Party of Korea. The three parties issued a joint declaration on September 28. It said, in part, “Regarding normalization of diplomatic relations, the three parties confirmed that the Government of Japan must fully compensate the North Korean people for damages inflicted during the 36-year colonial rule and for 45 years since 1945.” South Korean President Roh Tae-woo was said to have severely criticized the declaration. Sticky issues were its references to (1) unification of the Korean Peninsula and (2) compensation of damages to include 45 years after the end of the colonial rule. The declaration also stated, “Three parties confirmed that it was necessary for them to make efforts to remove nuclear threats in all regions of the world.”
1990 A united front of civic and religious groups launched the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery (*The Korean Council hereinafter) in December; Professor Yun Jong-ok became its leader. It appealed to former comfort women to come out to the fore to lodge complaints against the Japanese government.
1991 More than 100 South Korean women began to come forward as self-proclaimed comfort women in response to the Korean Council’s request. The first one, Kim Hak-sun, held a press conference on August 14.
1991 The Miyazawa administration of Japan which was inaugurated in November began investigations of the comfort women issue. It made public results of two investigations later.
1992 The Korean Council held its first rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to lodge claims against Japan on the comfort women issue.
1992 Etsuro Totsuka, attorney at law, used a word “Sex Slaves” to refer to the comfort women at a committee of the U.N. His word soon caught on among the self-proclaimed human rights advocates in the world. Totsuka admitted he had neither found the word in nor loaned it from credible sources he researched; he just coined the word. Since then, the comfort women were alleged to be sexual slaves and the comfort stations were alleged to be rape centers by certain intellectuals. (*Had he quoted Victor Hugo, the word could have sounded academic: “We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true. Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution.”)
1992 Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato of Japan made public the first-round investigation results as a statement on July 6, which did not find any evidence that Korean women had been forcibly taken to warfront.
1993 A Japanese official presented to his ROK counterpart a draft of a statement Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono would make about the comfort women issue on August 4. It was a consensus-building effort of Japan toward the ROK regarding the statement’s wordings. In the evening of August 3, the ROK official contacted the Japanese counterpart and said, “President Kim Young-sam has appraised the draft. The ROK Government considers it satisfactory.”
1993 Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono of Japan made a statement on August 4 after disclosing the results of the second-round investigation. The Kono Statement said, in part, “the Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.” In response, a ROK government spokesman said that the government appreciated the statement because: “The public nature of a support to be provided by the government funding (the Asian Women’s Fund) is added to the statement” and “sincere apologies and remorse by the government are expressed for the persons concerned.”
1993 The Korean Council and the Study Committee on the Conscripted Civilians (wartime laborers) published a book containing witness statements of 19 South Korean self-proclaimed former comfort women. What they said in it were so impressive in the social context that they established themselves as the utmost “victims” of Japan’s colonial rule. Fact-finding efforts as well as irrelevancy of their accounts gave way to stereotypical sympathy and pity of the public and the mass media. Since then, the women themselves could not make any deviation from what they had earlier said. They have consequently lost their individuality and moral integrity so that they could become a collective, enshrined icon. (*“I never think of myself as an icon. What is in other people’s minds is not in my mind. I just do my thing,” said Audrey Hepburn.)
1994 Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama made public in August a plan to establish a civic fund to provide consolation payments for the comfort women, which was officially launched as the Asian Women’s Fund in July 1995.
1995 According to Professor Kazuo Asano, Premier Murayama as a devout socialist was mulling over passing a parliamentary resolution to sum up the past as the 50th anniversary of the war-end was drawing near. One problem he had at hand was many lawmakers were wary of such a resolution. In fact, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a coalition government partner, disagreed to the resolution he proposed. Even the Communist Party opposed it. Despite those opposition voices, the premier railroaded a bill for voting in the lower house. The bill did pass the house with only 230 ayes in the 502-member house, less than a majority. The bill passed because as many as 250 congresspersons abstained from voting. The result made Murayama give up another voting attempt in the upper house because another wave of abstention was anticipated. Premier Murayama then plotted to announce the content of the resolution as his official statement. He decided to ambush the ministers. On the morning of August 15, Premier Murayama summoned a Cabinet Ministers’ meeting and read out his statement to the 21-member Cabinet, among whom 13 were LDP members. Having been taken by surprise, no one uttered even a single word. He took their silence as acquiescence and adjourned the meeting.
1995 Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issued a statement to commemorate 50th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War on August 15, without express consent of the LDP. He said, in part, “During a certain period in the not too distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology. Allow me also to express my feelings of profound mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad, of that history.”
1995 The Murayama Statement was generally accepted as a government apology until October that year when he said at the House of Councilors, “The treaty to annex the Korean Empire to Japan had been lawfully signed,” which rekindled protests in the ROK against Japan. The Kim Young-sam administration changed its stance from favorable to unsatisfactory regarding the Asian Women’s Fund for the comfort women.
1995 George Hicks published a book titled “The Comfort Women” with arbitrary and complacent choice of uncorroborated data. (*“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored,” according to Aldous Huxley.)
1995 The Asian Women Fund was established in Japan for the former comfort women. It was disestablished in 2007 upon completion of all programs.
1995 A preliminary report on the comfort women submitted by Radhika Coomaraswamy to a U.N. committee was unanimously approved on March 7. Coomaraswamy had in it a clear recognition that (1) the comfort women issue pertinent to the Japanese military was not an issue of the past and (2) it would be a legal precedence to deal with a similar crime that was committed in the past, was being committed at present, and was to be committed in future. The report, after additional editing, was published in February 1996 as the Coomaraswamy Report. (*The report—a mixture of facts and fabrications—has become the most notorious case of Gresham’s Law: When there is a legal tender currency, bad money drives out good money.)
1996 Moon Ok-chu had her life story published as a book. She vividly described her experience in warfront. She sent home money by post; she saved money in post office. She was a bona fide comfort woman from the Korean Peninsula.
1996 The ROK became a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in December, which proved the nation has accomplished unprecedented economic transformation in half a century. Along with the G20 membership in 1999, the ROK secured the position of a world leader on par with Japan, which meant its stance could go from bearish to bullish on issues involving Japan.
1998 The McDougall Report on the comfort women issue was submitted to a U.N. committee as an appendix, which was accepted by the committee members as an authentic document. (*The report has become the second-most notorious case of Gresham’s Law.)
1998 Ikuhiko Hata suggested Seiji Yoshida in September to publicly admit he had fabricated stories of abducting hundreds of Korean women to make them comfort women. Having acknowledged his wrongs to Hata, Yoshida still disregarded Hata’s suggestion until his death.
1998 The Asian Women’s Fund published a 5-part book titled “Seifu-Chosa Jugun-Ianfu Kankei Shiryo Shusei [Compilation of Materials Related to the Military Comfort Women Investigated by the Government of Japan] (author translation). This book contains valuable information to counter South Korean allegations, however, the published accounts of the self-proclaimed former comfort women overwhelmed its importance.
1999 The ROK, being recognized as a great economy, became a member of G20 in September when it was established with the aim to discuss policy pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability. The nation hosted the leaders’ summit in 2010. G7, on the other hand, developed from G5 with the U.S., the U.K, Germany, France, Italy in 1973, adding Japan in 1975 and Canada in 1976 and Russia in 1998—Russia’s participation has been suspended since 2014. One reason for leaders of those nations to establish the forum was due to their disappointment with the U.N. The PRC and the USSR always used veto power on security issues before the Cold War was over. At present, there is a talk to establish a new United Nations, excluding the PRC.
2000 The Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery was held in Tokyo in December. A final statement was issued in the Netherlands in December 2001. This event is not explained further here because the statement was unilateral and self-complacent; witness statements of the ROK self-proclaimed comfort women sufficiently encompass what the tribunal wanted to claim. (*Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts.”)
2001 A Japanese Embassy staffer in Seoul complained to visiting Liberal Democratic Party members from Japan that the ROK counterpart never failed to mention what the Chinese would do whenever he wanted to discuss bilateral economic issues. China has become more influential over the ROK than before, which relatively lowered the ROK attention to Japan.
2002 Professor Kim Gi-ok disclosed at an international symposium held in Kyoto on February 23 that the ROK military operated comfort stations with comfort women in the name of the Fifth Logistic Items around the Korean War.
2002 Japan’s Premier Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang in September. The premier and Chairman Kim Jong-Il of the DPRK National Defense Commission issued the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration on September 17. The declaration states, in part, “Both sides, pursuant to the basic principle that when the bilateral relationship is normalized both Japan and the DPRK would mutually waive all their property and claims and those of their nationals that had arisen from causes which occurred before August 15, 1945, decided that they would discuss this issue of property and claims concretely in the normalization talks.” This declaration corrected what the 1990 three-party declaration mentioned about the claims issue.
2005 The ROK government disclosed in January 1,200 pages of diplomatic documents that recorded the proceeding of the treaty signed by the ROK and Japan in 1965. The documents, kept secret for 40 years, recorded that the Japanese government actually proposed to the ROK government to directly compensate individual victims, but it was the ROK government which insisted that it would handle individual compensations to its citizens. Then it received the whole amount of grants (300 million dollars) on behalf of the victims. TV Tokyo, a Japanese TV network, cited the documents in World Business Satellite on 16 August 2019 as follows: “The Roh Moo-hyun government presented an official opinion in 2005 that the issue of conscripted civilians (wartime laborers) had already been settled by the Claims Agreement: The government was responsible for individually compensating them and the relief committee (the Claims Fund management committee) consisting of government officials and civilians provided relief for war victims from a holistic perspective.” Be it official documents or statements, the South Koreans uphold today’s justice over what took place in the past; hence, compensation claims of civilians got rekindled.”
2006 Yuko Suzuki, Yeong-ae Yamashita, and Masaru Tonomura published a 2-part book titled “Nihongun Ianfu Kankei Shiryo Shusei” [Collections of Materials Related to the Comfort Women of the Japanese Military] (author translation). This book contains valuable information to counter South Korean allegations, however, the published accounts of the self-proclaimed former comfort women overwhelmed its importance.
2007 The U.S. Congress passed the resolution 121 on July 30 to criticize Japan on the comfort women issue. Mike Honda and others, asserting contemporary justice, successfully brushed damaging facts under the rug after three self-proclaimed comfort women took the witness stand on February 15. Similar resolutions were adopted in the Netherlands, Canada, and EU, which was attributable to successful campaigns made by the Korean Council.
2007 The Asian Women’s Fund was disestablished on March 31, upon completion of all programs to compensate for the former comfort women in countries, including the Netherlands; They included some of the self-proclaimed comfort women as well.
2007 Professor Park Yu-ha was awarded the Jiro Osaragi Prize for Critiques for her book titled Wakai no Tame ni – Kyokasho, Ianfu, Yasukuni, Dokudo [For conciliation on school textbooks, comfort women, the Yasukuni Shrine, and the Dokdo] (author translation) by the Asashi Shimbun. It was a translation of the book she published in 2005 in South Korea. She criticized the Korean Council for exercising violence of justice and appraised the Asian Women’s Fund. Quite a few intellectuals criticized her verbally and in writing.
2008 The Asia Coalition Forum for the Japanese Military Comfort Women (日本軍「慰安婦」問題アジア連帯会議) hosted its 9th convention on November 23-25 in Japan. The coalition forum adopted action platforms. Platform 3 states that it supports foreign countries’ campaigns for the comfort women issue and damage recovery projects, that it forms a joint front with them, and that it promotes campaigns to share historical awareness, to pass down to posterity memories of the issue, and not to tolerate any violence upon women or human rights infringement. In the background of the action platforms above were resolutions it respectively adopted at the 3rd convention in February 1995, the 4th one in March 1996, and the 5th one in April 1998. They were (1) to inform the world of inhuman crimes the Japanese military had committed, (2) to strengthen the tie with the women in the concerned countries in Asia, (3) to persuade the concerned governments to encourage Japan to solve the issue, and (4) to step up campaigns in the U.N. (*Marcus Aurelius said, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”)
2009 The ROK Administrative Court in Seoul made public in August the existence of a document submitted to the court by the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (*Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 2013). The document, in part, states, “It is difficult for the government to re-assert the claims to the Japanese government because the 300 million-dollar it had received as grants through the Claims Agreement is considered to include the deposited money (unpaid salaries) for the civilians conscripted for work in Japan.”
2010 Rumiko Nishino and Kim Puja published a book that contained statements of 25 South Korean self-proclaimed former comfort women. (*It is strange for the book to contain stories of six of the 19 self-proclaimed women whose statements were already published as a book in 1993. They have also become a collective, enshrined icon).
2010 A group of Korean expatriates erected a comfort woman cenotaph in Palisades Park, New Jersey in October, the first one in the U.S. soil. (*Words carved in it—more than 200,000 women and girls who were abducted—will continue to disgrace the Korean pride till it gets removed.)
2011 The Korean Council erected on December 14 a comfort girl/women statue or a statue of peace in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to commemorate its 1,000th Wednesday demonstration. (*A cenotaph attached to the statue fails to mention victims of the Korean patriarchal system. It also fails to mention the prostitution license system had alleviated financial hardships the comfort women’s parents had. Of note is a fact that the statue was erected not to remember the girl but to commemorate the Korean Council’s continued demonstrations.)
2011 The ROK constitutional court rendered a decision in August that it was unconstitutional for the ROK government not to have fully committed itself to solve the comfort women issue.
2012 David Lee, leader of the Korean American Public Affairs Committee, led efforts to erect a comfort women cenotaph in Nassau County, New York. The cenotaph, the second one in the U.S. was placed in Eisenhauer Park in June. He is also a leader of a Korean lobbyist group. He said, “It is votes and political campaign funding that can successfully lobby politicians in the U.S.” On the motive of New York State Senator Tony Avella who supported a resolution on the comfort women, State Congressman Ron Kim said, “Mr. Avera is not interested in the comfort women issue. He merely acted to get cooperation of Mr. Lee and to get a spotlight in the mass media during elections. Politicians in New York act when the New York Times reports something of interest. They care less about protest mails from Japan about the comfort women issue.” Lee is planning to host an exhibition on the comfort women issue because he entertains a thought that the comfort women issue was a case of Asian holocaust (*Sawada, Katsumi. (2015). Tokyo. Bungei Shunju).
2012 The ROK Supreme Court remanded in May the two lawsuits filed by groups of former conscripted civilians (wartime laborers) to the high courts, stating that the Property and Claims Agreement of 1965 had been signed between the two nations without explicit agreement on the legality of colonial rule or the lawful reparations for forced, conscripted civilians and, therefore, negative prescription was not applicable to individual claims.
2012 The ROK and Japan were supposed to sign the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in June. The ROK abruptly cancelled the signing ceremony an hour before it was to begin. Behind the scene was a serious concern for China by the opposition parties in the ROK Assembly. Lee Hae-chan, chairperson of the Democratic United Party, said to the press corps, “Our nation’s trade with China exceeds that with the U.S. and Japan combined.” Park Jie-won, the party’s Assembly leader, said, “We celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomacy with China this year. A political gamble to dislocate China in favor of Japan must be immediately abandoned.” The Agreement was signed in November 2016.
2012 Professor Moon Jong-in of the Yonsei University in Seoul said in an article of the Chosun Ilbo in August, “If someone says we have lived with the U.S. for the past 50 years, I would say, we must live with China for the next 50 years.” 2012 marked the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the ROK-PRC diplomatic relations. (*Professor Moon may be siding with Bruce Lee who said, “Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity.”)
2012 Lee Yong-soo, a self-proclaimed comfort woman, who took a witness stand at the U.S. Congress in 2007 when the Resolution 121 was passed, said, “I am the Dokdo and the Dokdo is Yong-soo” on the article of the Yeongnam Ilbo dated September 14. What she meant is the comfort women issue should be treated in the same way as the territorial issue over Japan’s Takeshima (Dokdo in Korean). (*She attempted to throw herself at President Donald Trump at a presidential banquet in South Korea on November 7, 2017. President Trump did hold her arm away by his right hand while paying courtesy to her. Saint Basil the Great said, “He who sows courtesy reaps friendship.” But she did not.)
2013 The Korean Council began in spring a campaign to collect 100 million signatures from all over the world to pressure Japan to take responsibilities for the comfort women issue.
2013 A group of Korean expatriates erected on July 30 a comfort girl/woman statue or a statue of peace in Glendale, California, the first one in the U.S. soil. The statue is identical with that installed in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul (*Efforts to erect more statues in America are understandable but adding one after another would tarnish the Korean pride because each carries a message that false allegations can overcome facts).
2013 An Byeong-jik, a Professor Emeritus at Seoul National University, published a book titled Nihon-gun Iansho Kanri-nin no Nikki [Diaries of a book-keeper of the Japanese military comfort station] (author translation) from Naksungdae Institute of Economic Research on August 30. The book is a translation of the diaries kept by Park (Mr.) from 1943 to 1944. Park started keeping a diary almost every day from 1922 to 1957 but those for 1928, 1942, 1945-1950 are missing—A sculptor found the diaries at a second-hand bookstore in 2000. Prior to the book publication, Professor An said in an article of the Chosun Ilbo dated August 7, 2013, “The comfort women can be said to have been forcibly conscripted in a broader sense of the term.” He said in an article of the Mainichi Shimbun dated August 7, 2013, “It was the agents who recruited women in Korea. There was no need for the military to forcibly conscript women in the elementary sense.” The professor concluded in the book, “It would not be much of a problem to consider the military comfort women as being sexual slaves under the circumstance of those days.”
2014 Professor Su Zhiliang at Shanghai Normal University co-authored with Peipei Qiu and Chen Lifei “Chinese Comfort Women: Testimonies from Imperial Japan’s Sex Slaves” from Oxford University Press in June. Professor Su stated in the book the total number of the comfort women was 400,000, of whom 200,000 were Chinese. (*Had one sexual slave tended 10 troops a day on average in warfront, 4 million troops must have been given liberty to visit the rape centers per day. Had she served 30 troops a day on average, 12 million troops went to the rape centers each day. How many were fighting in frontline when there were approximately 3 million troops in the entire theater of operation? Had Professor Su read Victor Hugo works, he must have learned this saying, “It is the essence of truth that it is never excessive…. We must not resort to the flame where only light is required.”)
2014 The Asahi Shimbun printed more than a few pages of articles regarding its re-investigation of the comfort women issue in the August 5 edition. Retracting 16 articles that had been written from 1980 through 1994, the daily concluded that testimonies made by Seiji Yoshida were false. (*A one-time correction is fine, but it is meaningless unless the daily continues to write articles from the consistent, realistic, and responsible perspective afterwards. Since then, the Korean Council stopped referring to Yoshida, however, the allegation that 200,000 Korean women had been abducted still stands high.)
2014 President Obama was scheduled to meet President Park Geun-hye in Seoul on June 25. As the summit was drawing near, President Park ordered her staff to contact Beijing to set up a telephone consultation with China’s Chairman Xi Jinping. She did talk with the chairman, two days prior to the presidential visit, to discuss on the North Korean nuclear missile issue and the Northeast Asia situation. On the morning of June 25, the Joong-an Ilbo printed on Page 1 an article of an interview in writing with the president. President Obama said in it, “It is not extraordinary for South Korea and China to boost economic cooperation in consideration of the two nations’ geographic closeness and history. It is, however, the United States that can provide the basis of South Korean security and prosperity.” President Obama knew the phone consultation had taken place.
2014 Professor Park Yu-ha published a book titled “Comfort women of the empire” (*Publishing a book or an opinion piece that provides impartial analyses and thoughts never fails to put an author’s reputation and sometimes his/her life at risk). Professor Park became the accused in a libel suit and was given a fine later.
2015 Japan’s TBS TV journalist Noriyuki Yamaguchi unearthed documents to prove the South Korean military operated comfort stations in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. His findings were reported in the April 2 issue of a weekly magazine. (*“We cannot use a double standard for measuring our own and other people’s policies. Our demands for democratic practices in other lands will be no more effective than the guarantees of those practiced in our own country,” according to Hubert H. Humphrey.)
2015 Japanese and South Korean Foreign Ministers met on December 28 and jointly and respectively made an announcement to close the comfort women issue. Both ministers said, “It was confirmed that the issue of comfort women, a long-standing issue over many years between Japan and the ROK, is resolved finally and irreversibly.” During a subsequent Japan-ROK summit telephone call, Premier Abe and President Park confirmed and appreciated the agreement. Furthermore, they confirmed that they would take responsibility to implement this agreement, and that they would deal with various issues based on the spirit of this agreement. (*“Unless both sides win, no agreement can be permanent,” said President Jimmy Carter. The bilateral agreement was unilaterally negated by President Moon in 2017. Who won?)
2016 Professor Oh Sonfa of the Takushoku University of Japan said that there were two reasons for the ROK concession to the bilateral agreement of December 28, 2015 on the comfort women issue. One—which is larger than the other—is a summit meeting held in the White House in October 2015. President Obama is said to have strongly urged President Park to promote friendly relations with Japan. The president said later at a press availability that he hoped the history-related issue to be solved despite its difficulty. The other relates to the South Korean economy that has been dwindling due to the recent rise of the won currency and the slowdown of the Chinese economy. South Korean business leaders met with the Japanese counterparts in Seoul in May 2015. They expressed their hope of signing a central bank liquidity swap between the ROK and Japan and the ROK participation in the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) in which Japan is a key player. Professor Oh provided the analyses above in an article she contributed to the Sapio, a monthly magazine of March 2016.
2016 The ROK government announced on July 8 THAAD missiles would be deployed to the U.S. Forces, Korea. Its Defense Ministry made a follow-up announcement on July 13 that it had chosen the location of a missile site. Though China and Russia severely criticized the deployment plan, the first elements of the THAAD system arrived at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea on March 6, 2017. China, after its protests were ignored by the ROK, issued on March 17 a decree to prohibit domestic tourist agencies from selling group tours to South Korea, which immediately took effect. On September 7, four additional launch pads to the existing two and construction equipment/materials arrived at the missile site. According to the Hankyoreh Shinmun of March 13, 2019, the U.S. Forces, Korea submitted to the government a project plan for the missile site on February 21. There are numerous procedures to take before an environment assessment appraisal gets started. The assessment work alone is expected to continue at least one year.
2016 Inuhiko Yomota, writer on comparative literature, contributed to a book an opinion piece regarding “Comfort Women of the Empire” Professor Park Yu-ha wrote. He has it that the historic memories are grouped into four layers from top to bottom: (1) National memories whose character is sacred and inviolable; (2) Vernacular discourses which the mass media strategically choreographed, put on record, and provided for the public, not as history but as a myth in a precise sense of the term; (3) Voices that can be heard only through the help of the intellectuals and the mass media; and (4) A spell of silence looming over those who are at the bottom, prime examples of them are former Korean and Japanese comfort women who dared not come out to the fore.
Why has Professor Park become a target of a barrage of slander and libel in South Korea and Japan, questions Yomota. It is because she presented alternative voices—that are possibly realistic—against the dominant vernacular discourse, because she tirelessly chronicled how the “official memories” had intentionally created a comfort women myth over the years until now, and because she courageously attempted to put the issue in relative perspectives, in her grand vision to scrutinize East Asian nation states that embodied the imperialism and the patriarchy in modern times (Asano, Toyomi/Ogura, Kizou/Nishi, Masahiko (Ed.) (2017). Taiwa no Tame ni—“Teikoku no Ianfu” to Iu Toi wo Hiraku [To promote dialog—by reviewing questions posed by “Comfort Women of the Empire”] (author translation). Tokyo. Crane). (*Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out this. “Here the ways of men (*humans) divide. If you wish to strive for peace of soul and happiness, then believe; if you wish to be a disciple of truth, then inquire.”)
2017 Shigeharu Oku, a former member of the Self-Defense Force of Japan, travelled in March to the National Cemetery for Overseas Koreans in South Korea where Seiji Yoshida erected in 1983 a cenotaph of apology for Korean women whom he had abducted. Oku covered the cenotaph—at the request of Yoshida’s son—with another one he brought himself. The new cenotaph inscribed “Commemorative Stone” in Japanese. The ROK police put Oku under house arrest for having damaged a public property. A district court sentenced Oku to imprisonment with hard labor for six months with a stay of execution for two years. Oku returned to Japan after approximately 200 days of house arrest. (*Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.)
2017 President Moon Jae-in said, after inaugurated to the office, the foreign ministerial announcements of December 2015 had not solved the comfort women issue.
2017 Professor Choi Kil-seong published in November a book titled Chosen Shusshin no Choba-nin ga Mita Ianfu no Shinjitsu [Facts on comfort women a Korean bookkeeper saw] (author translation) from Heart Shuppan Publishing in Tokyo. Professor Choi, as anthropologist, gave thoughts to the 1943-1944 diaries Mr. Park kept (*Those Professor An Byeong-jik also referenced in 2013). Park spent over two years in Burma and Singapore, departing Pusan on July 10, 1942 and embarking on a ship from Singapore for home on December 17, 1944. Professor Choi narrates Park having registered and unregistered comfort women for taking on the job or for going home at local police authorities, having mailed money by post and bank for comfort women, having gone out in town with comfort women for ceremonial celebrations, etc. He also mentioned the presence of many Koreans in Burma and Singapore: They established a business network in Burma, Singapore, East Timor, Sumatra, Malaysia, Thailand, and Borneo; and their businesses included not only comfort stations but also dining rooms, restaurants, rice product stores, confectioneries, tofu (soybean curd) shops, oil refineries, photo shops, and the likes. (*Had all Korean comfort women been sexual slaves there, all Korean business operators must have paid no attention to the women’s ordeals, not to mention Park, even though they were from the same peninsula. All of them must have been of satanic characters.)
2018 Hideo Tanaka published a book titled Semarang Iansho Jiken no Shinjitsu [Facts about the Semarang comfort stations] (author translation) in which Major Keiji Okada diaries shed a new light to the Semarang Incident. (*Despite the insinuation otherwise made by the Kono Statement of 1993, the military authorities did not force dozens of Dutchwomen to become comfort women.)
2018 The Korean Council changed in July its Korean name to the Justice Coalition, without changing its English name. The Council members belatedly recognized the original name was misleading and wrong.
2018 The City of Osaka severed the sister-city relationship with the City of San Francisco in October over the comfort women issue.
2018 The South Korean Supreme Court rendered two judgment respectively in October and November to favor the claims of two groups of former conscripted civilians (wartime laborers) and to order the accused to pay compensation money.
2018 The ROK Navy destroyer Gwanggaeto the Great with STIR-180 medium-to-long range fire-control (FC) radar system locked on to a P-1 patrol aircraft of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force flying over Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone on December 20. Locking continued for several minutes and multiple times—locking on to a target with the FC radar is generally considered as a hostile act before actual firing of an anti-air missile. The patrol aircraft radioed to the destroyer by using three separate bands only to receive no response. In the immediate area were a DPRK fishing boat, a ROK patrol and rescue vessel, and two lifeboats deployed from shipboard, in addition to the destroyer. The ROK government, changing its accounts a few times, denied using the FC radar at the P-1 or receiving radio transmissions from the P-1. (*Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.” King—who fell to a shot in Memphis on April 4, 1968—did not see a sea change in civil rights movements later. Even if he was a seafarer, he wouldn’t have changed his belief.)
2019 President Trump flew to Seoul on June 29 from the G20 summit meeting in Japan. Having attended a banquet hosted by President Moon that evening, President Trump praised First Lady Kim to the skies a few times even on the following day for her commitment to the country. It is not clear if his praise originated from a glittering broach the lady had on her evening dress. The broach was a blue butterfly. For some, a blue butterfly is a symbol of opposition to the deployment of THAAD to the Korean soil because of the movie Blue Butterfly Effect released on June 22, 2017. According to a Washington insider, President Trump tends to lavishly praise things or people when he is not happy with them.
2019 On July 1, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry made public that it would strictly apply the export control system to materials to be exported to the ROK. There are two specific measures to be taken for the proper operation of the system. They are (1) to review the appropriateness of the present export control category awarded to the ROK and (2) to reverse the present comprehensive export permit back to the former individual export permit regarding certain items to be exported to the ROK.
The ministry explained those measures were necessary due to concerns that inappropriate cases of export control had been reported regarding the ROK, which damaged the mutual trust between Japan and the ROK.
The ministry review does not mean Japan would not export the three controlled items to the ROK. It means each export request (contract) needs to be individually permitted instead of comprehensive rubber-stamping, which had been the case with the ROK until 2004. Developed nations in Europe have not recognized the ROK as a White Nation.
2019 On August 2, the Japanese government decided to place the ROK in Group B of the four existing categories for the export control system. Group A—formerly White Nations—lists 26 nations, including the U.S. and Britain. Group B includes Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, South Africa, Turkey, etc. Group C includes nations not listed in Groups A, B, or D. Group D lists ten nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and the DPRK.
2019 On August 22, the ROK announced that it would not renew the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan. The Agreement would be officially null and void on November 22.