Sunday, May 14, 2017

South Korea's new president and the Comfort Women

January 20, 2017
What is the commitment South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in has toward the Comfort Women and historical justice. The following is a brief review of Moon’s actions and words regarding the Comfort Women.

Whereas Moon never focused on women’s issues as a human rights lawyer, he has displayed an honest interest in the Comfort Women. Unlike former President Park, he has met publicly and directly with Korean Comfort Women. Park attended briefly the February 2007 Comfort Women congressional hearing in Washington, DC, where two Korean and one Dutch Comfort Women testified.

Moon was the Chief Presidential Secretary during the 2007 Comfort Women debates in the US House of Representatives. His approach to the December 2015 CW arrangement, appears more nuanced than others. He appears to be of moving beyond this “agreement” toward a more satisfying, legal settlement. 

On May 15, the UN Security Council holds an open debate on sexual violence in conflict. Its objective of the debate is to raise awareness on the issue of sexual violence in conflict as a tactic of war and terrorism, focusing particularly on patterns and trends identified in the annual report of the Secretary-General on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (S/2017/249). This timely discussion will highlight the broader concern of women’s rights and ending impunity for sexual violence in conflict that is integral in any discussion of the Comfort Women and Japan's responsibility.

On May 12, the UN Committee against Torture Concluding observations on the third to fifth periodic reports of the Republic of Korea ADVANCE UNEDITED VERSION, supported Moon desire to revise the December 28th understanding by concluding:

48. The State party should:

(d) Revise the Agreement of 28 December 2015 between the Republic of Korea and Japan in order to ensure that the surviving victims of sexual slavery during World War II are provided with redress, including the right to compensation and rehabilitation and the right to truth, reparation and assurances of non-repetitions, in keeping with article 14 of the Convention;

Moon Jae-in (문재인) / Democratic Party (더불어민주당)

As an university student, Moon led student movements against the Park Jung-hee’s authoritarian regime, and was imprisoned briefly in 1975. After his release, he was conscripted into the military where he served in special forces. In 1980, he passed the bar exam and became lawyer. He ran small law firm with the former President Roh Moo-hyun (Roh) in Busan, and worked as a human rights lawyer. After Roh was elected President in 2003, he became Chief of Staff and Senior Presidential Secretary. When the Comfort Women resolution H Res 121 was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2007, he was Chief Secretary. (February 25th, 2003-February 25th, 2008)
Businesspost, 5.9.2017

In 2012, during his first run for presidency, Moon, expressed officially for the first time his personal views on Comfort Women issues,. On August 15th, 2012, Independence Day, Moon attended the weekly Wednesday Demonstration outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, which demands an apology to the former Comfort Women by Japanese government. Moon promised that he would negotiate with the Japanese government to receive compensation and a sincere apology for the Comfort Women.
Asiaeconomy, 8.15.2012

In regard to the negotiations between Seoul and Tokyo to achieve a Comfort Women “agreement” on December 28, 2015, Moon believes that a first priority is to reveal the details leading to the two documents of understanding. Thus far, the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not disclosed these to the public. He has also said that the “agreement” should be nullified, and any the next administration needs to renegotiate it. He has also insisted that new negotiations are necessary to clarify the Japanese government’s legal responsibility regarding the Comfort women.
Ilyoseoul, 1.21,2017

On December 31, 2015 after Comfort Women “agreement” was announced, Moon visited the House of Sharing, which houses surviving the former Comfort Women, and argued that receiving a sincere apology from Japanese government should be a guarantee of any deal with this issue. He wrote comment on his Facebook page that Koreans should do their own fund-raising to establish the foundation for the former Comfort Women, instead of receiving money from the Japanese government.
Heraldpop, 2015.12.31

On January 11th, Moon visited graves of the former Comfort Women in Choenan. He said that 1 billion yen compensation from Japanese government doesn’t stand for a genuine apology. Additionally, he criticized the fact that Japanese government had summoned Japan’s ambassador and consul to Japan as a reprisal against erecting Comfort Women statues in Korea.
Focusnews, 1.11.2017

On January 20th, Moon was photographed clasping the “hand” of the Comfort Woman statue outside the Japanese consulate in Busan.
MBN, 1.20.2017

On April 4th, Moon officially expressed his condolences on death of Lee Soon-duk, one of the former Comfort Women, by sending a floral tribute to her funeral. He pledged again to amend the former Comfort Women “agreement”, and to elicit an apology from Japanese government.
Insight, 4.5.2017

On April 13th, Moon published his major campaign promises, which included a renegotiation pledge. However, on April 17th, the Moon camp excluded this renegotiation pledge from his major campaign promises, and replaced it with the statement that he will deal with historical issues with Japanese government in principle. His camp said that Moon’s stance toward Comfort Women issues have not changed, but had decided to modify the statement to be more comprehensive.
NEWSIS, 4.17.2017

On May 3th, Kim Ki-jung, diplomatic and security advisor to Moon, said that Moon will not make the Comfort Women issue the starting point of diplomatic negotiations with the Japanese government. He will pursue “two-track” talks with Japan. This is to show that the wants to cooperate with neighboring countries to establish peace and stability in Northeast Asia as well as to hold talks over historical issues. Bilateral relations will stall if South Korea takes a stance of doing nothing unless this unless this issue is resolved. In addition, he felt that Moon would find it difficult to arrange the removal of statues symbolizing the Comfort Women because they were installed by private civic groups.
JIJI Press, 5.3.2017

On May 3th, Moon campaigned in Masan and stopped to lay flowers on their Comfort Women statue.
Starseoul, 5.3.2017

On May 4th, his camp publicly denounced the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family of Korea for not adhering to its original plan to publish a government-led White Paper on Comfort Women issues, but instead conceded the release to a private NGO of its own report.
Moon Jae-in Camp, 5.4.2017

On May 8th, during Moon’s campaign, he embraced Lee Yong-su, one of the former Comfort Women, and she declared officially her support for Moon.
News1, 5.8.2017

On May 9th, the former Comfort Women living at House of Sharing, expressed their delight on Moon’s win. One, Lee Oak-sun said that the Comfort Women agreement will now be nullified as it did not reflect the victims’ opinion or perspective.
Kyunghang, 5.9.2017

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