A Consideration of the so-called Comfort Women Problem in Japan-Korea Relations: Embracing the Difficulties in the International Legal and Policy Debate

Author:Koji Teraya
Position:Professor of International Law at the University of Tokyo, Japan
Pages:195-220
SUMMARY

The main purpose of this short essay is to mitigate harsh debate about ‘comfort women.’ Although it is not expected to be resolved in the foreseeable future, understanding the structure of the problem based on the fact-finding and legal analysis would enable the two peoples to seek a better solution. The author claims that: (1) although some of the historical facts remain unclear, and some people ... (see full summary)

 
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Japan 195
VI JEAIL 1 (2013)
Koji Teraya
The main purpose of this short essay is to mitigate harsh debate about 󼚨comfort
women.󼚩 Although it is not expected to be resolved in the foreseeable future,
     
analysis would enable the two peoples to seek a better solution. The author
claims that: (1) although some of the historical facts remain unclear, and some
people tend to focus too much attention on fact-finding, from the viewpoint
of international law, sufficient evidence has been revealed to confirm Japan󼚩s
responsibility for its conduct in the Second World War, and Japan does not
and should not deny the relevant historical facts; (2) Japan was absolved of
its responsibility by the 1965 Agreement in a legal sense; and (3) having said
that, this case reveals the limits of the positivistic legal approach, and the Asian
Women󼚩s Fund can be one legitimate way of dealing with this problem.
A Consideration of the
so-called Comfort Women
Problem in Japan-Korea
Relations: Embracing the

International Legal
and Policy Debate
Professor of International Law at the University of Tokyo, Japan. LL.B. (Tokyo). The author would extend the
deepest appreciation to Professors Enzo Cannizzaro, Naoki Iwatsuki and Akira Kotera for their helpful comments.
The author appreciates helpful comments in Ciclo di Seminari 2011/2012: Jus Cogens after “Germany v. Italy,”
Sapienza Università di Rome, June 11, 2012. Appreciation should be also given especially to Professor Enzo
Cannizzaro and Professor Naoki Iwatsuki. The author also thanks the participants in his seminar “Theory and
Practice of International Human Rights Law” at the University of Tokyo in 2012-13, and in a research meeting about
international responsibility led by Prof. Akira Kotera held in March 2013. The views expressed in this article are
those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the position of the Japanese government. The author accepts full
responsibility for the facts and views expressed herein. Address: Building 3 of Faculty of Law, the University of
Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bukyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan 113-0033.
2013-05-27 󱹙󲻹 2:24:36
196 Koji Teraya
Keywords
Comfort Women, State Responsibility, The 1965 Japan-Korea
Agreement, Asian Women󼚩s Fund, Human Rights, Feminist Perspective
1. Introduction
The so-called comfort women problem is, together with the 󼚨dispute/conflict󼚩
over 󼚨Takeshima/Dokdo󼚩 Islands, one of the most controversial issues in relations
between Japan and Korea. Those relations have deteriorated somewhat in recent
times, especially since the visit of former President Lee Myung-bak to Takeshima/
Dokdo in August 2012. According to him, it was necessary to take a concrete stand
in response to Japan󼚩s negative attitude towards the 󼚨comfort women󼚩 issue in the
summit meeting at the end of 2011.
1
It is both surprising and regrettable that a close
neighbor friend sharing common institutional values
2
argues so harshly as if their
wide-ranging cooperative relation should be reduced just to these nationalistic
issues. The 󼚨comfort women󼚩 issue would often stimulate nationalism in both States,
but the strength of feeling on the two sides tends to make a solution unreasonably

The author feels hesitation in dealing with this delicate matter in a short essay
such as this. He even holds the pessimistic belief that the issue will not be resolved
in the near feature. Even the term 󼚨solution󼚩 is the subject of some debate. However,
the author also believes that understanding the structure of the problem based
on facts and legal analysis would serve to mitigate the harshness of the current
      
better solution.
This research focused on the issue in the Republic of Korea, because it most
clearly demonstrates difficulties. This paper is composed of five parts including
Introduction and Conclusion. Part two will examine the fact-finding and
responsibility of Japan. Part three will analyze the 1965 Agreement relating to the
󼚨comfort women󼚩 problem. Part four will discuss the Asian Women󼚩s Fund. Due to
1 Staff Writer, Korean President visited Takeshima and made a decision on ‘comfort women’ issue (available
only in Japanese), THE NIKKEI, Aug. 13, 2012, available at http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXNASGM1304L_
T10C12A8FF2000/?dg=1 (last visited on Aug. 13, 2012).
2 See Remarks of the former President Myung-bak Lee on National Liberation Day on August 15, 2012, available at
http://digital.asahi.com/articles/TKY201208150147.html?ref=comkiji_txt_end (last visited on Apr. 13, 2013).
09-Regional-KojiTeraya(195-220).indd 196 2013-05-27 󱹙󲻹 2:24:36

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