Today, multiple Japanese news outlets are reporting that South Korea’s invitation of “a former ‘comfort woman,’ who has spoken widely of her suffering from being forced into sex slavery by the Japanese during World War II, to a state banquet it hosted for U.S. President Donald Trump,” has prompted Japan to lodge a diplomatic protest to South Korea.
A “comfort woman” is defined as any woman forced into sex slavery to provide “comfort” at designated “comfort stations” to Japanese soldiers during World War II.
While the extent of the harm done by this practice is continually being revised to this day, most sources quote the number of women affected by this practice to be approximately 200,000, estimating that Korean women were the most victimized, followed by Chinese women, and then Japanese women, although other women living in Asian countries under Japanese control were victimized as well.
In 2015, Japan and South Korea reached a diplomatic agreement that Japan would apologize and provide reparations to South Korea totaling one billion dollars. As part of this agreement, South Korea would in turn discontinue criticism of Japan in the international community and would agree to the removal of a prominent statue.
The Kyodo Times reports, “The attendance of the 88-year-old Korean woman, Lee Yong Soo, at the banquet, which was later confirmed, may complicate South Korea’s ties with Japan and their joint efforts with the United States to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.”