China appears to have gone without notable reparation for the suffering of its people in this episode. As for Korea, Japan made a package of grants and soft loans in 1965 to the sum of US $800 million according to the Asia Times, or assistance “worth $500 million” according to the JT article. Given that Korea’s original claim was only $364 million – and that the provided amount far exceeded the entire government budget at the time – the package would, at first glance, seem to qualify as minimally adequate. Also among the various apologies and admissions from Japanese officials over time, a complete formal apology was made to Korea in 1993, which would seem to go as far as a country might go to make amends.
However, as it was revealed in 2005, the Korean leadership of the time provided only a minority of this to the families directly affected by the brothel system, contributing most to the general infrastructural projects committed to the rebuilding of Korea, to which end the US had provided another approximately $1 billion. At that time, South Korean leader Park Chung-hee declared that his nation had thereby relinquished their right to demand further reparations from Japan.
Furthermore, recent discourse from public figures in Japan have deviated somewhat from the sentiment of the formal apology and various admissions, and even contracted them entirely. Shinzo Abe himself said, in 2007, that “The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion”, although he announced in March this year that he “did not intend to alter” the standing apology (more careful wording, perhaps). To add to this, the newly appointed head of public broadcaster NHK, Katsuto Momii, openly justified the practices of the military brothel system as “common in any country at war”, and was puzzled at the anger from overseas commentators.
During the meeting last Wednesday, the South Koreans stated that Japan still owed an apology to the comfort women who are still alive, and that without doing so, its responsibility was yet to be met. The Korean position seems to waver regularly between acquiescence with the 1993 apology and dissatisfaction. The complications of ascribing and accounting for inherited guilt become ever clearer for the two parties.