Sejong Policy Series
Individual and joint research results are published as Policy Books.

Sejong Policy Series

The 'Comfort Women' Agreement and ROK-Japan Relations
2017.09.28  Thursday
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Myon woo Lee, Chang-gun Park, Kitae Lee, Jung-hwan Lee

The ‘comfort women’ agreement signed on December 28, 2015 is receiving diverging assessments from the people. One is a negative one, pointing to the fact that those people who suffered as ‘comfort women,’ hence the actual victims, were not able to take part in the negotiation process and even in the Kono statement, the first document between Korea and Japan regarding the ‘comfort women’ issue. Accordingly, those people argue that the agreement was rather a downgraded political compromise. Due to this drawback, people holding a negative view continue to raise suspicion on the possibility that there may have been a behind-the-scene settlement in the process of signing the agreement.


Positive feedback comes from the view that although the agreement has its shortcomings, the agreement was the closest that South Korea and Japan could agree upon. Despite the deal falling short of meeting the victims’ demands for the recognition of legal responsibility and the payment of reparation regarding the ‘comfort women’ issue, its adherents contend that it reaches close to legal responsibility acknowledgeable by the international community.


This view begins from the point that the two countries cannot realistically bridge the gap in their perceptions with Japan claiming that the treaty in 1965 has resolved all the issues. Moreover, its adherents maintain that the shortcomings of the agreement could be solved through the follow-up measures that the two countries carry out. The conflicting evaluation of the ‘comfort women’ agreement implies that the agreement could be a starting point of either a novel bilateral relationship or a confrontation between the two countries.


The Sejong Institute initiated this research project, “The ‘Comfort Women’ Agreement and ROK-Japan Relations,” because Seoul should consider the uncomfortable nature of the international environment it faces in spite of the problems that the agreement entails. There is an urgent need to prevent South Korea’s policy regarding Japan from being engrossed in the revision of the agreement. Mindful of the shortcomings of the agreement, this project explores how the South Korean government should pursue its policy regarding Japan to maximize its national interest. The authors hope that the project’s recommendations could contribute to the newly inaugurated Moon Jae-in administration’s ‘dual track’ policy on Japan.


Volume No.: 2017-8
Publisher: The Sejong Institute
Publication Date: September 15, 2017
Paperback: 166 Pages