During World War II, Japan’s military captured and abused over two hundred thousand Korean and Chinese women, taking them as sex slaves, or “comfort women.” For over 70 years, the Japanese government refused to publicly apologize for what many historians have labeled war crimes. In early 2015, after years of stalled talks and negotiations, the government of South Korea reignited the issue that has long been a source of sorrow and outrage within the country.
South Korea’s public affairs firm, BGR Public Relations, partnered with Synoptos to craft a strategy for improving U.S. support for an official apology and reparations from the Japanese government, and to assist with enhancing the campaign once launched. Synoptos began by providing a comprehensive news and social media analysis to determine the current public sentiment and media bias on the issue of comfort women. Using proprietary data visualization technology and a team of experienced human analysts, Synoptos then identified and profiled the influencers in the media and government most critical to igniting the public debate, creating a pathway for the campaign’s content marketing efforts. Throughout the campaign, Synoptos provided in-depth analyses of public opinion among those influencers and the general public, and assessed the reach and resonance of campaign messages and themes.
Facing overwhelming public support for action, Japan and South Korea reached an historic agreement in late December, which included an official apology from the Japanese government and an $8.3 million settlement for the 46 “comfort women” still alive today. Over the course of the seven-month effort, support for South Korea’s campaign for an apology and reparations in the news media rose 83 percent. On social media, public sentiment shifted from just 16 percent in support of South Korea’s goals to an overwhelming 66 percent, while opposition to South Korea’s call for a public apology declined from 64 percent to just 3 percent over the course of the year. In the wake of shifting public opinion, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was urged by news media and government officials to move talks forward to finally reach a satisfactory resolution. “Japan and South Korea are now entering a new era,” Abe said later. “We should not drag this problem into the next generation.”