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Japan and South Korea prioritizing the wrong issues

In current geopolitics, Northeast Asia is a geostrategic hotspot. As the world and U.S. braces itself for the Presidency of the unpredictable Donald Trump, the United States is an untested ally. China is assertive in its claims to disputed waters and islands. North Korea, threatening with missiles and hydrogen bombs remains unpredictable. And amongst all this, bilateral relations between South Korea and Japan are currently being held hostage by a barefoot teenage girl bronze statue.
This statue was built opposite the Japanese consulate in the Busan, a city in South Korea. This was followed by Tokyo recalling its ambassador from South Korea and suspending high-level economic policy discussions with Seoul.

The statue in question is a symbol of the hundreds of thousands of women who were “recruited” from China, Korea and parts of Southeast Asia to service the Japanese military s World War II brothels. It is a stark reminder to Japan of its wartime atrocities and its lack of sincere atonement.

In December 2015, a “final and irreversible” agreement was signed between Japan and South Korea and Tokyo agreed to pay ¥1bn into a fund for surviving comfort women. As the issue was considered settled, the erection of the Busan statue was considered a violation of the agreement.

It is important for both Tokyo and Seoul to look at the lager issues in current geopolitical circumstances rather than quibbling over statues.

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