Seoul (AsiaNews) - The Japanese government will make an official apology for the sexual exploitation of Korean women during World War II. The issue of "comfort women", a euphemism used to refer those women sent to the Japanese front lines or barracks to satisfy the sexual desires of soldiers during the wars waged by the Land of the Rising Sun until 1945, has caused deep divisions between Tokyo and Seoul since the end of the conflict.
The move was announced by Junichi Ihara, head of Asian Affairs of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the end of a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Sang-deok. The bilateral meeting was the third of its kind since April 2014: Ihara has made it clear that the two sides "have agreed to keep every channel of dialogue open." The next high-level meeting is scheduled for August.
The issue has divided Tokyo and Seoul for decades. The Korean government has repeatedly called on Japan to officially admit the abuse of "comfort women", apologize and compensate them adequately. At first the Land of the Rising Sun - which had no formal ties with South Korea - did not respond; the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two nations in 1965, has not solved the problem thus far.
According to Korean estimates, there were more than 200 thousand "comfort women" in total; for the Japanese, there were no more than 80 thousand and in many cases, they claim these were "volunteers who freely chose" to follow the Japanese military. Today, those recognized and still alive number 54: Pope Francis is scheduled to meet some representatives during the mass for peace and reunification that he will celebrate in the Seoul Cathedral on the August 18.