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2018 will mark the first trilateral meeting between China, Japan, and South Korea with the summit remaining long delayed. South Korea is keen to put on a united front with its neighbors in a bid to make sure the recent thawing of relations with North Korea is not threatened. However, a long shadow is being cast over the trilateral meeting with South Korea once again looking into the role of comfort women pressed into service in brothels by occupying Japanese forces.

South Korean comfort women have long caused friction between South Korea and Japan as the operation of brothels by the Japanese armed forces and government had caused many issues since the end of hostilities. The concern over the problems faced by the South Korean comfort women was thought to have been brought to a close with an agreement signed in 2015 by the two nations. As a result of the many comfort women, testimonials heard prior to the agreement being reached the Japanese government accepted its role in the operation of brothels throughout World War II in many occupied nations, including South Korea. A fund was also established designed to assist those involved in the comfort women scandal to live more prosperous and beneficial lives.

Problems with the deal began to surface following the impeachment of the then South Korean Park Heun-hye. During the process of creating the agreement between the two nations, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe heard a number of comfort women testimonies leading him to express his personal regrets to the women for the role they were forced to play by the Japanese military. The matter was officially declared resolved by both nations with the signing of the 2015 agreement.

The impeachment of the former South Korean Prime Minister has thrown much of his work under the spotlight since he was replaced by Prime Minister Moon Jae-in. One aspect of the leadership of South Korea currently being investigated is that of the South Korean comfort women with a Foreign Ministry panel already taking up the case of the women to make sure the deal created with Japan is the best option for them.

Comfort women stories have been an issue for the Japanese government and military for many years with the position of the government often challenged by South Korean leaders. The current leadership of the government of South Korea is looking at ways of improving relations with all those who may play a role as allies in the denuclearization of North Korea as the thawing of diplomatic ties continues. As trilateral meetings approach, the discussion will turn to the issues of the Korean comfort women who are being compensated for the harrowing time they spent during World War II through the fund established with Japan.

Concern had been growing that South Korea was aligning itself with China in its bid to defuse tensions in the Korean Penninsula but a recent meeting between foreign ministers from the South and Japan has ended some problems. Foreign Ministers Kang Kyung-wha of South Korea and Japan’s Taro Kano have concluded a meeting over the problems in the Korean Penninsula which have once again risen to the top of the list of issues in the area. On Dec 27th of this year, the South Korean Foreign Ministry will give its verdict of how to move forward with the case of the South Korean Comfort Women by revealing whether they should scrap, modify, or keep the controversial deal with Japan.