Japan’s attitudes toward its unfortunate past of comfort women make a striking contrast with those of South Korea for the Vietnam War.
Attitudes toward their unfortunate past make a sharp contrast between Japan and South Korea. While Japan showed recognition and compensation regarding the issues of comfort women, South Korea has become the target of international criticism for failing to face the petition from “Lai Dai Han”.
Since Korean comfort women identified themselves as such in the early 1990’s, the South Korean government had continually criticized Japan, demanding apologies, and compensation for them. Ultimately, the Japanese government officially acknowledged the existence of comfort women and compensated them. On the other hand, the South Korean government still have not recognized the accusations of sexual violence from the Vietnamese against its soldiers. More than 300, 000 South Korean soldiers were sent to serve in the Vietnamese War (1964-1975), making the country a major supplier of troops, second only to the United States. Several estimates indicate that tens of thousands of Vietnamese women became sexual slaves for Korean soldiers during this period and many had children, called “Lai Dai Han” (Vietnamese for mixed blood), who currently suffer discrimination within Vietnam due to their mixed ethnicity.
Vietnam and other countries have criticized South Korea for failing to recognize the sexual violence allegations against its military personnel. Wayne David, chairman for the All-Party Parliament Group (APPG) for Vietnam says that the discrimination suffered by the Vietnamese comfort women also affects their children, the Lai Dai Han live under precarious social and economic conditions, and many do not have access to education and other basic services. Wayne also emphasizes that most victims expect some kind of compensation. Likewise, the United Kingdom, a leading voice and host of the first “Summit to End Sexual Violence” (2014), highlights the importance of recognition for the victims and for future prevention of sexual violence in war times. “As a country, we stablished a prominent role in the fight against sexual violence, and support and call for international action. It is our duty to eliminate sexual violence during conflict in its entirely. Recognizing and supporting some victimized groups whist ignoring others, suggests we live in an era of selective justice, and sends a troubling message to the international community”.
As can been seen, contrary to South Korea, Japan’s acknowledgement and consequent compensation concerning South Korean comfort women seems to be in line with what the international community considers as a fundamental step towards protection of women’s rights. By following the model developed by Japan, South Korea will be able to grant peace and closure to the victims of atrocities of its soldiers.