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Korean Comfort Women

Korean Comfort Women

U.S. President Barack Obama made a special call to South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to talk about the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, and praise them on setting a decades-long dispute over indentured sex-workers enslaved during times of war.

Obama’s compliments included complimenting the other nations’ leaders on “having courage and vision to forge a lasting settlement o this difficult issue.” Obama’s statement strengthened the U.S. position of diplomacy, amid increasing tensions between itself and the two Asian nations.

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser to the Obama Administration stated that the subject was “a long-standing source of tension between two key U.S. allies in the Asi-Pacific.”

Over the last several years, Obama spoke on the matter in nearly every meeting he attended with the leaders of Japan and South Korea, according to Rhodes. Easing tensions between the U.S. and Japan and South Korea was critical to Obama, as a way to compensate for the increase of China, both militarily, and economically, in the region. And with the U.S. relationship with other nearby Asian nations, North Korea’s aggressive behavior might be stymied.

When interviewed on the matter, Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken stated that “This wasn’t just a question of wanting our two friends to get along; it mattered strategically”

For two years, Obama and his administration stepped-in to engender the drawing together of South Korea and Japan, towards a peaceful resolution over the “comfort women” dispute. Bipartisan U.S. support of this effort strengthened the nation’s ability to act and move convincingly.

Michael J. Green, Senior Vice-President for Asia at the Center for Strategic and Internation Studies stated, “The U.S. factor was very large because in both bilateral relationships, this was a problem.”

Top officials from the three nations describe the White House’s involvement with the comfort women case as being increasingly influential, while at the same time expressing minimal actual responsibility, as a political cushion against possible fallout from the talks. As part of the new agreement, both the South Korean President and Japanese Prime Minister agreed to cease all public criticism of each other.

The agreement includes an $8.3 million endowment from the Japanese government as reparations for the surviving 46 South Korean comfort women, as a means to aid in psychological rehabilitation, and the restoration of their lost honor and dignity. South Korea’s government is also encouraging the removal of a bronze comfort woman statue outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

Abe and Park had already been in office for over a year before meeting one another, highlighting the sensitivity of this issue. Chinese and Filipino girls and women had also been victims of the Japanese comfort women policy.

It was Obama who brought the two leaders together


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