Japanese News: Moon Jae-in and the comfort women agreement.

Several articles on NHK News Web (main source) discuss South Korea President Moon Jae-in’s press conference that took place on January 10th.

  • 記者会見・きしゃかいけん: press conference

Of course, Japan media were closely watching what Moon Jae-in would say about the Japan-Korea agreement on the comfort women issue that was signed in 2015 by the two governments. This agreement is referred to in Japanese as:

  • 日韓合意: Simply, the Japan-Korea agreement
  • 日韓両政府の合意: Similarly, the agreement between the two governments of Japan and Korea
  • 慰安婦問題をめぐる合意: The agreement concerning the comfort women issue
  • 慰安婦問題をめぐる日韓合意: Japan-Korea agreement concerning the comfort women issue.
  • 慰安婦問題の「最終的かつ不可逆的な解決」を確認した2015年12月の日韓両政府の合意: The agreement between the two governments of Japan and Korea from December 2015 that confirmed the “final and irreversible settlement” of the comfort women issue.

Korea had already announced, through its Foreign Minister, that it would not ask for re-negotiation of the agreement. However, Korea Foreign Minister reiterated Korea’s wish for Japanese apologies.

  • 再交渉・ざいこうしょう: Re-negotiation. The word 交渉・こうしょう means “negotiation”.
    • The verb used to say “asking for re-negotiation” is 求める・もとめる which means “to request”, “to solicit for”, “to ask for”
  • 謝罪・しゃざい: an apology.

By acknowledging the agreement signed with Japan in 2015, Moon Jae-in renounced to honour one of his election campaign promises:

  • 「再交渉する」としていた大統領選挙での公約を撤回することを明らかにしました
    • 公約・こうやく: a public pledge, an election pledge.
    • 撤回する・てっかいする: to withdraw, to revoke, to retract

The article starts with financial concern, saying that Moon Jae-in announced that the former comfort women who refused financial compensation from Japan would receive support from the Korean government instead. Secondly, South Korea does not plan to give back the money received from Japan when the agreement was made in 2015, it will instead use it to try to solve this issue.

  • 日本からの支援金受け取りを拒否している元慰安婦たち.
    • 支援・しえん: support, backing, aid. This word is used in contexts such as “support to orphans”, “moral and material support”.
    • 受け取る・うけとる: receive
    • 拒否する・きょひする: refuse, decline
    • 慰安婦・いあんふ: comfort woman, that is, a woman forced into prostitution by soldiers.
      • 慰安・いあん simply means “comfort”, “relaxation”, “recreation”. I guess that the use of this word as a euphemism for “prostitution” is limited to the context of the war (for example, the word “慰安所” that meant “military brothel”). Apart from this meaning, the word 慰安 mainly refers to “rest and relaxation from work”. For example, a “慰安旅行” is a trip that a company organises for its employees in order for them to relax and take some rest from the stress of work (If I am not mistaken, a 社員旅行 is more focused on team building, whereas a 慰安旅行 aims at relaxation).
  • 日本政府からの支援金を返還しようとする考えはない
    • 返還・へんかん: return, restoration, retrocession, restitution, repayment. This is a difficult word used to say, for example, “retrocede a territory”. But if we know the meaning of 返 from the verb 返す・かえす, we can guess the meaning of 返還 from the context.
  • 問題を解決するためのよい目的で使用されるのは望ましい
    • 望ましい・のぞましい: desirable, advisable.

The second part of the article is about what Korean press said about it. A major newspaper emphasised that in exchange for not asking for re-negotiations, Korea requested that Japan should take the next step and left newspaper said that, the ball was in Japan’s court. The conservative press, however, criticised Moon Jae-in, saying that this whole affair had only one goal: criticise former president Park Geun-hye. An internal conflict should not prevent the government to show a mature attitude concerning international relations.

  • 日本に再交渉を求めない代わりに自発的な後続措置を注文した
    • 代わりに・かわりに: in exchange for, in place of, as a substitute for.
    • 自発的・じはつてき: spontaneous, voluntary, on one’s own initiative
    • 後続・こうぞく: succession? It could also mean “following”, “behind”.
    • 措置・そち: a measure, step, move, action.
    • 注文・ちゅうもん here means “request”.
  • 日本政府に心からの謝罪を促したことで、ボールは日本側に渡ったが、日本は応じていない
    • 促す・うながす: urge sb to do st, call upon
      • This left radical newspaper says that Korea asked for sincere apologies and that now, the ball is in Japan’s court. I heard an interesting expression this week, related to this issue:  “ゴールポストを動かす”. From a Japanese point of view, Korea is constantly “moving the goalpost further”, every time Japan reaches it. In other words, when Japan formulates apologies concerning the comfort women issue, Korea would say that they are not sincere enough or criticise the choice of words and ask again for apologies, giving the impression that people will never be satisfied anyway. I find it interesting to see that both sides use a similar metaphor.
  • 予想どおり、再交渉が目的だったのではなく、前の政権を非難するため、この問題を道具として利用しただけだった。国内でどのような政治的な争いがあったとしても、外交や安全保障問題は成熟した姿を見せてほしい
    • 政権・せいけん: political power or simply: a government, a cabinet, an administration
    • 避難する・ひなんする: criticize, denounce, condemn
    • 争い・あらそい: a fight, a battle, a conflict.
    • 成熟した・せいじゅくした: ripe, mature

The article then cites Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary, who insisted on the fact that an official agreement between two countries had to be respected. Chief Cabinet Secretary used several N2 grammar points, let’s revise!


  • の末に・のすえに means “after having (discussed, reflected, debated for a long time over a subject), we came to the conclusion that… In our text, the use of this grammar allows the Chief Cabinet Secretary to insists on the fact that this agreement is the result of long negotiations between Japan and Korea.
  • をはじめとする this means “beginning with”, meaning that the speaker could cite several examples but only mentions the most representative. In our case, the most representative example is the American government, but this grammar also means that the speaker could have cited other examples. It insists on the fact that this agreement has been acknowledged by the international community.
  • として: this grammar means “in the position of”. For example, for parents 親として, caring for the children is natural, “in the position of the parents”, it is natural to… Here, I think that we can simply translate by:  concerning the government, for the government.

The article ends with the mention of Korean protests that take place every Wednesday around the statue of the comfort women erected in front of the Japanese embassy and symbol of the citizens’ protest. Citizens said with one voice that such a humiliating agreement is invalid and urged Moon Jae-in to return Japan’s money.

  • 日本大使館の前に設置された慰安婦問題を象徴する少女像
    • 象徴・しょうちょう: symbol
      • The reference to the statue may be a way to mention that Korea hasn’t done much to honour its own part of the agreement.
  • また集会で参加者たちは、「日本政府に10億円を返還しろ」とか、「屈辱的な日韓合意は無効だ」などと、一斉に声を上げていました。
    • 屈辱的な・くつじょくてきな: humiliating
    • 無効・むこう: invalidity
    • 一斉に・いっせいに: all together, with one voice, all at once, in chorus


To go further, I found two interesting articles (in English) from The Diplomat that present the affair and reflect a certain irritation that may be a general sentiment among Japanese viewers. This first article gives the context that led to the signature of the agreement and this second article tries to understand what are Moon Jae-in’s intentions in this affair.