On Saturday I went to a Korea-Japan dialogue that was hosted by the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy. Korean and Japanese graduate students, with a sprinkling of scholars, came together to discuss current Korean-Japanese relations. Unsurprisingly, there were divisions between what the Korean and Japanese students thought--some small, some big.
The 6PT came up and it was interesting to hear some background information on it. The Koreans were saying that the Korean government was initially unwilling to include the Japanese abductees issue into the 6PT because their biggest concern was resolving the nuclear issue. If the abductee issue was brought into the discussions it could potentially cause the break-down of the talks, which the Korean government did not want. Their mentality was: deal with the big issues first, then we can get specific. But they finally agreed to it (in part because Japan refused to start the 6PT without it on the table) and the general opinion in Korea regarding this was of incredulity. From the Korean point of view, they didn't understand how the Japanese could make such a fuss over a few abductees when they forced thousands of Korean women into sex slavery. What right did the Japanese have when they have yet to face up to the issue of the sex slavery? The vibe I was getting in the room from the Koreans seemed to generally agree with that line of thinking.
While I do understand and sympathize with the Korean p.o.v., it doesn't negate the fact that the Japanese families also have a right to know what happened to their relative. All in all, I was rather depressed when I walked out of the room because it made me realize the enormity of the differences of opinion on both sides. How can reconciliation begin when there is so much misunderstanding, mistrust and resentment on either side?