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Pacific News Minute: Progress on the Comfort Women Controversy

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

Yesterday's agreement between South Korea and Japan came as welcome news in Washington.  The United States has long urged Tokyo and Seoul to resolve the issue of the "comfort women" - Korean women coerced into prostitution to service Japanese soldiers during the Second World War.  As we hear from Neal Conan in Today's Pacific News Minute, the agreement may be a step forward, but a long way from complete resolution.

For one thing, Japan's apology does not satisfy the victims.  "The agreement does not reflect the views of the former comfort women," 88 year old Lee Yong-Soo told a news conference in Seoul, "I will ignore it completely."  Advocacy groups and opposition politicians will continue to press their case as well.

And the issue acquired a flash point - a statue of a young girl erected in front of the Japanese embassy five years ago.  Japan insists it be removed, the South Korean government says it will discuss that with the comfort women.

After taking a phone call from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to express Japan's apology, South Korean Prime Minister Park Geun-hye called on her people to accept both the agreement and the need to improve relations with Japan.  She did not mention the looming power of China - she didn't have to. China is the most important economic player everywhere in the region, but, at the same time every one of its neighbors looks nervously on its increased aggression.  Every neighbor except its one ally, North Korea.

As much as the United States would like to replicate NATO in the Asia-Pacific - its allies simply don't get along well enough to establish that level of trust.  Instead, the US has built what's called a hub and spoke alliance, which allows countries like South Korea and Japan to both be close partners of the US, just not with one another.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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