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Transitional justice in Korea

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By Jason Lim

As I write this column, Korea is celebrating the beginning of its Liberation Day, which, once again, has become all about Japan.

In a sense this is inevitable, since Korea is celebrating its independence from Imperial Japan. From another perspective, however, it also shows that Korea still has not grown out of the identity framework originally defined by the trauma it suffered under Japanese colonial rule.

Without pointing fingers at who is to blame for the latest relationship crisis, it appears that Japan will never be just another country to Koreans as long as this national identity framework is in place.

To add fuel to this fire, the day before ― August 14 ― the Korean government commemorated the first international memorial day for comfort women. This was officially designated by the government in 2017 as a "means to restore dignity and honor to the victims of colonial and wartime sex slavery and to remember the range of 'comfort women' issues." This was the day in 1991 when Kim Hak-soon became the first victim publicly to share the experiences of the comfort women under Imperial Japan during World War II.

In a way, however, the comfort women issue shows South Korea a way to grow out of this self-limiting paradigm and resolve the relationship crisis with Japan at a more fundamental level. To do........

© The Korea Times