In what may be the first major move towards repairing diplomatic relations between the two countries, Japan and South Korean officials met on Wednesday to discuss the issue of the “comfort women” or those who were forced into sexual slavery for the Imperial Army during World War II. The major result of that meeting is an agreement to hold monthly talks to resolve one of the issues that has affected bilateral relations between the two neighbours.
The meeting on Wednesday in Seoul was between the Director-Generals for Northeastern Affairs for both countries, South Korea‘s Lee Sang-deok and Japan’s Junichi Ihara. This was the first diplomatic channel opened between the two regarding the comfort women issue since the end of hostilities during World War II. The next meeting is scheduled for May in Tokyo, although the agenda has not been set yet. An unnamed South Korean foreign ministry official reportedly said that the discussion may also include other issues, including the problem of North Korea’s continued nuclear and missile weapon program.
While media from both countries have been relatively low-key on this new development, it is a big step for the two East Asian powers as tense bilateral relations have been a source of concern for the international community. Last month’s first face-to-face meeting between Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, mediated by US President Barack Obama, led to the meeting on Wednesday to at least resolve one source of disagreement between them. South Korea has repeatedly asked for an official apology and legal reparation for the comfort women and their families while Japan’s stand is that any financial claims were settled with the 1965 treaty signed by both countries to normalize their diplomatic ties.