We’ve already covered the Korean government’s use of the comfort women issue extensively, so when I heard that some Japanese media outlets were reporting the discovery of Korean-run ‘comfort stations’ during the Vietnam war, I pretty much skipped past it.
True or not, there was every likelihood that the Korean government – which is currently surviving on a mixture of lacklustre opposition and angry WWII-related nationalism – would just ignore it. The only outlets covering the story were relatively low-circulation Japanese magazines, after all, and the Park government has recently been going all out to weaponise the issue:
However, it now seems like the Hankyoreh has taken up the issue and fully intends to use it to do as much damage as possible to the incumbent government. (The Hankyoreh is a relatively small, progressive news outlet in Korea – something like the equivalent of the New Statesman in the UK – they’re bent on causing trouble for Park because she belongs to the centre-right.)
They began with a no-smoke-without-fire piece based on the original Japanese articles, which could quite easily have been brushed off by the powers that be. However, they immediately followed this up with interviews with Vietnamese grandmas claiming to have been raped by Korean troops. Uh-oh.
As one of the original Japanese pieces put it:
“If President Park Geun-hye truly sees the comfort women issue as a human rights issue rather than a tool for domestic politics and diplomacy . . . then she will take the lead in investigating [the allegations] as with the example of the South Korean comfort women. Otherwise, [South Korea] would be proving to the international community that it is a country that ignores truths that are inconvenient to itself and refuses to confront history.”
It will be interesting to see whether the Park administration will manage to succeed in shrugging this off over the next few days. My bet is that it probably will.