For the Korean Church, the agreement on 'comfort women' tramples victims’ human rights
Daejeon (AsiaNews) – The agreement between Tokyo and Seoul on the age issue of "comfort women", women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II, "fails to meet human rights standards,” said Mgr Lazzaro You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon and president of the Korean Bishops' Commission for Justice and Peace.
The Korean Church publicly criticised the deal on 4 January, when the bishop met some of the survivors (pictured). For the prelate, the settlement “reflects economic and diplomatic priorities; in doing so, it fails to seek real peace, because peace requires justice. In the Holy Year of Mercy, the guilty need to undergo real conversion; that is the way.”
"Although historians do not all agree [on the number], some 200,000 were involved from the start,” the prelate told AsiaNews. “Now very few are left. Visiting them was the least we could do for them. They are the country’s grandmothers. They need to be loved and respected for what they went through.”
Speaking on behalf of the Korean Church, the prelate said that the agreement between the two governments, which includes a billion yen in compensation for all the surviving victims and a personal apology by Japan’s prime minister, “tramples once again the human rights of the victims because it fails to present the truth about the systematic crimes committed by Japan’s Imperial Army and does not mention those responsible. Although in presenting the deal the Japanese government claims that it is apologising, the agreement itself does not contain any apology. Therefore, it cannot be considered as a sign of true contrition."
“The parliaments of the two countries were not involved,” the prelate noted. “The agreement is the result of talks between committees from their respective Foreign Ministries who did not hear the Korean victims. Forgiveness and reconciliation cannot start from such a starting point because they must come from a profound reflection on one’s crimes and from one’s contrition for what was done" (cfr. Misericordiae Vultus, 21).
The joint statements from Tokyo and Seoul should be rejected when they say before the international community that they "put an end to this unfortunate situation. How can anyone say that since a genuine process of reconciliation has never occurred?” Mgr you said. “Germany committed terrible crimes during the Nazi era and continues to ask for forgiveness, whilst for a very long time Japan shied away from the truth about the victims and denied any responsibility for what happened."
For the bishop, Korea "is a divided nation that has suffered a great deal from Japan’s colonisation and the World War. Hence, its historic choice has to be a leading player in promoting peace in Asia and the world. It must be a land where human rights are fully realised. "
“The protection of human rights is a fundamental duty of the Catholic Church,” Mgr You said. “The preferential option for the poor, the weak and the marginalised is its vocation.”
“We ask that the issue of the 'comfort women', [whose treatment was] a clear violation of human rights, be reviewed. Peace comes from implementing justice. Therefore, the Korean Catholic Church calls on the governments of (South) Korea and Japan to revise this agreement, and start from scratch."