Final and irreversible deal?


(photo by MOFA)

I would never have come up with the idea of writing an article in English if this did not happen. Back in 2015, I clearly remember the day when I watched the news program, reporting that, the Foreign Minister of Japan Mr. Kishida announced Japan and South Korea reached a landmark agreement to resolve this decades-long dispute as a “final and irreversible deal”. That is the agreement regarding so-called comfort women issue.

I do not think I could represent all the Japanese sentiment about this issue, but we did then have some feelings of irritation in a way that what we have in mind is not well conveyed to the people of some neighboring countries. We know this is not just about the history issue but also, and should be, the human right one. We might have been able to see this only from the latter point of view if we shared the same recognition. But reality is harsh and it would be so difficult to establish a forward-looking relation.

Prime Minister Abe, in his speech in 2015, stated “feelings of deep remorse over the war. Our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries. We must not avert our eyes from that.” Yes, we have some deep feelings, not in an apologetical or hypocritical manner, about what we did during the world war II. Even the generation like me, born in 1968, far later than the end of war, has a deep feeling of apology about what we did to the neighboring countries.

Prime Minister Abe is not only the exception. Many Prime Ministers of Japan have expressed the feelings of deep remorse and apology for many times in the past. We are always facing the reality that our apology would always be put aside and this issue have been always kept on the diplomatic negotiation table every time, and will seemingly be forever. We have been experiencing the reality that those diplomatic goal are always moving and changing.

Let me back again about the 2015 agreement. At that time, among Japanese, there were some slight concerns that the diplomatic goal would again change as we have experienced in the past.

Reaching the end of this year, the President Moon Jae-in has established the government task force to review this 2015 agreement. And the conclusion of the task force, which has already been offered to the President, was that the former government had failed to represent the comfort women in the negotiation process of the agreement. (Some part of the negotiation process was unilaterally open to public by this task force report and was criticized by the major South Korea media, because negotiation processes are normally supposed to be treated as classified documents for certain years considering trust on diplomacy.)

Moon administration would then have the opportunity to revise or even scrap the agreement. Yesterday President Moon stated “this agreement is flawed and cannot resolve the issue”. He did not touch upon revise or scrap, but if he does, this is nothing but the revision of history and we can not manage the bilateral relation. If he does, we can not even go into further discussion nor no one could even start negotiating.

The Foreign Minister Kono has touched upon this agreement the other day, saying any attempt to revise it would be unacceptable and make the relations unmanageable. There would be no more reasonable statement at this moment.

We have a strong will to stop disputing in this way for the next generation on both sides. Besides, the ties between both countries is far more important in the history to provide the security and prosperity in the region.

History is harsh and we are living on such a history. And we have a strong will to carry our history on our back. We will never easily abandon any history we have traced, even though it has been done by the past administration, because what we have done is what we have done. We believe we can carry our future on our back only if we can carry our history on our back.

International agreements are not the exception. We know that it would be a big burden for us but we know that we could only establish mutual trust and forward looking relation though this way.

On this ground, I hope reasonable and forward looking action will be taken not only to provide the security and prosperity of the region but also for the next generation on both sides.

This is totally my personal opinion as a member of the House of Representatives.