JAPAN: Leaving the Past in the Past?

LEXIE TUCKER WRITES – “Forgive and forget” is often easier said than done.

When two countries have as rough a history as South Korea and Japan, it’s not surprising that tensions would be high between their leaders. For years, South Korea has requested that Japan offer compensation to the many women who were forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during World War II.  Now, according to recent media reports, they will finally have a chance to come together and at least partially mend their broken ties.

On March 19, the Nikkei Business Daily reported that South Korea agreed to a summit with Japan and the United States in The Hague (the center of the Dutch government and parliament) next week, to discuss nuclear security with leaders of other countries from around the world.

While the majority of Japanese leaders usually meet with their South Korean counterparts within the first year in office, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Park Geun-hye have failed to do so. Although historical issues are not on the agenda of the summit, U.S. officials have tried to convince the two neighboring countries to make up so they can shift their focus to participating in discussions about China’s military rise and the North Korean nuclear threat.

South Korean officials said they are trying to separately organize a discussion with Japan about the sexual enslavement of Korean and other Asian women during World War II. This is a huge leap considering the two leaders have not held formal talks since December 2013, when Mr. Abe visited a Tokyo shrine that honors several war soldiers.  Since then, Ms. Park has refused to meet with him, criticizing the move as “a symbol of Tokyo’s militarism and aggression.”

With any luck, this talk will be an opportunity for them to come to an agreement and move toward a better, less tense future.

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