Japan apologized to South Korea and will pay $8.3 million to compensate the “comfort women” forced into sexual slavery at Japanese brothels during World War II. Although it is unclear how many women served as sex slaves for the Japanese during the war, estimates suggest that 20,000 to 200,000 suffered.
After years of what survivors described as “insincere, half-hearted” expressions of regret from Japanese officials, survivors remain critical of the motives of the agreement. Lee Yong-soo, 88, told the BBC, “I wonder whether the talks took place with the victims really in mind. We’re not after the money. If the Japanese committed their sins, they should offer direct official government compensation.”
The agreement comes after years of disagreement over whether Japan had properly atoned for its wartime crimes. While Tokyo long maintained that its payment of $800 million in grants and loans to South Korea in 1965 settled the issue, South Korea disagreed. Despite the recent agreement, Korea remains skeptical. The Korea Herald notes, the two sides are divided over whether the agreement forces Japan to take legal responsibility for its actions.
Park, the South Korean president, has expressed that she, “hopes the mental pains of the elderly comfort women will be eased” as a result of the agreement.