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Disclosure of diplomatic documents over sex slavery

Posted December. 28, 2017 08:47,   

Updated December. 28, 2017 08:59


A special task force set up to investigate the agreement made between Korea and Japan over wartime sex slaves reported on Wednesday that there were some problems in the content and process as to how the deal between the two countries was made on December 28, 2015. The task force under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Korea said in its report that the deal was finalized mostly based on closed-door negotiation in the presidential office, without taking into account opinions from the victims of slavery, and there was a secret agreement beforehand to not disclose some sensitive issues, such as relocation of a girl statue in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, comfort women monuments overseas and calling these women “sex slaves.” The task force also reported that the foreign ministry pointed out calling the agreement final and irreversible with the condition of the Japanese government’s fulfillment of obligations under the deal would create some backlash and resistance from the public but the former Park Geun-hye administration rejected it.

The 2015 agreement obviously had many problems. The former Korean administration failed to mention the Japanese government’s legal obligation to compensate and agreed to receive 1 billion yen (8.83 million dollars) without sufficient communication with the victims. On top of it, the two governments agreed the deal would be “irreversible,” a term that should never be used for any human right issue. Nevertheless, the former administration pushed forward with the deal in order to salvage the Korea-Japan relations.

The Japanese government has not fulfilled its responsibility wholeheartedly, making a loophole in the agreement look more serious. However, the Korean government has never even mentioned nullification or renegotiation of the agreement in order to avoid being branded as a country not conforming to a diplomatic deal. This is the reason why this issue remains a low-key by President Moon Jae-in despite of his support for renegotiation of the agreement during a presidential campaign and Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha maintains her position that a review result by the task force will not be reflected in a policy recommendation directly.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said on Wednesday in a statement that “Japan will not accept any request for change to the agreement by the Korean government, and any attempt to revise the agreement will make the two countries’ relations unmanageable.” The Japanese government’s threatening remarks about the bilateral relations is only unreasonable and inappropriate after trying to dodge its obligations under the agreement. However, the task force’s recent disclosure of diplomatic documents, which should be remained confidential, could lead to damaging Korea’s reputation as a trusted partner in the international community.

Though an agreement struck by the former administration is unsatisfactory, it is hard to recall at the governmental level. It is recommended to review areas that should be verified and revise areas that should be updated. It is certainly not a time to worsen the two countries’ relations due to historical conflicts when the diplomatic situation of the Korean Peninsula is becoming volatile.