The issue of "comfort women" is a lot more problematic than the recent decision reached between the governments of Japan and South Korea would seem to suggest. This is my personal comment, but with it I am also sharing a link that caught my attention. Unlike most media that praised the reparations the Japanese government is offering to former Korean "comfort women" (who were basically based as war-time forced prostitutes of Korean origin), the authors have a very critical perspective.
At first I was skeptical of this article, mainly because I think part of the problem of dealing with memory, trauma and systematic wrongdoing is that I thought there's not that much that governments can do other than to offer an official apology and pay reparations. But in reading the details about the treaty between Japan and Korea, it seems pretty obvious what the problem is: Japan acknowledges towards Korea that comfort women did occur... but it does not admit towards its own people that this was government policy, in fact a wholesome part of the Japanese imperialist war machine of the past. In doing so, basically, it will never let its own people (and children) know through its education system that the Japanese government and Japanese people incurred in a serious moral wrongdoing in a specific period of its own history.
Why is this so important not only for Japan and the world? Because this points to the fact that memory, tragedy and truth (things that are the object of Truth Commissions around the world, just like in my native Peru) need more than money and acknowledgement. Truth is not a mere fact, but also something that must be taught and spread out. If a someone (a state, a group of people, or even "us" as a people) commits a crime (towards others, towards its own people), it doesn't suffice to say "from hereafter I give you money and we shall not talk about this anymore". There needs to be some self-shaming and a true desire and action for these things to not happen again in the future. In the end, this is not a decision about history or truth, it is one about politics. Like in Japan, like in Peru, Argentina, South Africa, or anywhere else in the world.
This agreement between South Korea and Japan was widely received as terrible news by the surviving “comfort women” and progressive and feminist activists. The women were not at all consulted in this process, and no activist or advocacy organization participated in the negotiations. In an angry confrontation with a government representative who visited the House of Sharing yesterday, the women bitterly protested the terms of the agreement and chastised the South Korean government for having “killed them once again.” Pretty much everyone I know is appalled by the terms of this agreement, but most English-language media have so far depicted it as some kind of conciliatory step forward (it’s not!) and the Korean-language conservative media is suggesting that this is the best that South Korea could do. Read the full text of the Japan-South Korea Statement on “Comfort Women.”