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Japan should issue new, fact-based statement on comfort women

Publication Date : 28-08-2014

 

The latest move represents a call, in effect, on the government to revise the statement by former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on wartime “comfort women,” toward the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II next year.

The Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council on Tuesday submitted a proposal to current Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, calling on the government to issue a new statement on comfort women through Suga.

There has been a misunderstanding, spread widely throughout the international community, that a large number of women were forcibly taken away by the Imperial Japanese Army to serve as “sex slaves.” The Kono statement is a factor in that misunderstanding.

Suga is said to be negative toward issuing a new statement. But he should take the LDP’s call to heart and seriously consider it.

The statement, issued in 1993 by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa through Kono, expressed the government’s apologies and remorse to former comfort women.

The statement said “at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments.” This expression can be construed to mean military and administrative personnel were involved in the forcible taking away of women.

Yet there have so far been no confirmed documents to prove the forcible taking away of comfort women.

A governmental panel of experts in June compiled a report on an investigation into the drafting of the statement. It revealed that the Japanese and South Korean governments had coordinated closely over expressions regarding “coercion” in the recruitment, with Seoul calling for modification, saying that the statement must be one whose value could be recognised by the people of South Korea.

Verification key

In light of these findings, the council criticised the then government for releasing the statement to the world “as a product of political negotiation without going through a verification process.” It is reasonable for the council to point out that the then LDP-led administration should be held heavily responsible.

The council, in its proposal, also regards news articles carried by some news media as problematic, saying that they have repeatedly spread falsehoods that aggravated relations between Japan and South Korea. This apparently refers to the series of articles on wartime comfort women run by The Asahi Shimbun.

The Asahi had repeatedly carried articles since 1982, citing the false testimony of a man named Seiji Yoshida, including his statement that many Korean women were “hunted out” on Jeju Island during the war.

On Aug. 5, the Asahi at long last retracted its articles concerning Yoshida’s testimony, but it is clear that the articles stirred up anti-Japan sentiment in South Korea, influencing the environment in which the Kono statement was released.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made clear his policy of leaving the Kono statement as it is, probably as part of his big-picture judgment that bilateral relations could be aggravated further.

Yet the release of a new government statement on the issue would be significant for passing down correct history both at home and abroad, with next year seeing the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the 50th anniversary of the normalisation of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Nonetheless, it is also a fact that the honor and dignity of a large number of women were hurt during the war, even though there was no forcible taking away of comfort women.

As the LDP has advocated, the government should transmit to the world the information concerning comfort women based on historical facts.

 

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