New Japanese Prime Minister Suga Seeks Rapprochement With South Korea

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New Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in on Thursday that the two countries must repair their damaged relations.

 

Suga said South Korea is an essential partner for Japan in countering the threat from Stalinist North Korea.

Suga spoke to reporters after a phone call with Moon Jae-in. “I told President Moon that we could not leave our relations, which have been damaged by things including workers in World War II.”

In the past year, relations between the two countries became very sour due to an argument about the use of Korean forced labourers in Japanese companies during the Japanese occupation.

There was also a falling out between the two countries for decades over the ‘comfort women’, women forced by the Japanese occupation army to work as sex slaves in military brothels. Japan occupied the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

The comfort girl issue is compassionate in both Japan and all countries occupied by the Japanese military.

In 2015 Japan apologized to South Korea, but the discussion regularly flares up again. That happened in 2017, for example, when activists in the South Korean city of Busan erected a statue in memory of the comfort women in front of the Japanese consulate.

The issue of comfort women was also a sensitive topic in relations with the Netherlands. An estimated 200,000 women from countries such as China and Korea were forced to work as prostitutes by the Japanese during the war. Women in the Dutch East Indies also had to deal with this. In 1993 Japan expressed its regret.

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