North Korea has urged Japan to also address North Korean “comfort women” as part of the current discussion with neighboring South Korea. As many as 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, were forced into the Japanese Army’s brothels during World War II, though it is not known how many may currently live in North Korea.
“This issue can hardly find a final solution unless the damage suffered by all Koreans is redressed throughout Korea because there are victims of the sexual slavery of the Imperial Japanese Army not only in the south of Korea but also in the north,” said a spokesperson for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry in a statement carried by the country’s state-controlled media Korean Central News Agency.
Pyongyang has claimed compensation from Tokyo for the aggression in the past, but the latest move comes at a delicate time. North Korea is facing growing criticism for its human rights record.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor of University of North Korea Studies in Seoul, said North Korea’s focus on the comfort women issue appears to be an attempt to counter the Japanese efforts on Pyongyang’s human rights conditions. “Pyongyang might have raised the issue to try to deflect the world’s attention away from its human rights situation. …” said Yang.
Nam Gwang-gyu, a professor at Korea University, said Pyongyang might be trying to use the diplomatic row between Seoul and Tokyo to press Seoul. “North Korea can blame South Korea for any unsatisfactory results from future talks between South Korea and Japan over the comfort women issue,” said Nam.