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No Grand Bargain

Japan and South Korea After the “Comfort Women” Deal

Students hold portraits of deceased former South Korean "comfort women" during a weekly anti-Japan rally in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, December 2015. Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS

On December 28, just days before the end of the 50th year of diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea, Seoul and Tokyo agreed to resolve their long-standing dispute over the issue of South Korean “comfort women” forced to serve as sex slaves by the Japanese military during World War II. Japan agreed to provide one billion yen (around $8.3 million) to a foundation that the South Korean government will establish to assist the former comfort women, reiterated its remorse, and apologized anew on behalf of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—a change from previous statements, many of which merely referred to earlier apologies without issuing new ones. In return, South Korea agreed to accept the deal as final, to refrain from criticizing Tokyo on the matter in international forums, and to work to “solve the issue” of a controversial statue of a comfort woman located directly in front of the Japanese

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