Despite their pledge to address the issue of “comfort women“, or those who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, classified documents and interviews with several government officials alleged that Japan did not allow a probe in the early 90s. This was probably to avoid negative publicity for the country, despite constant pressure from countries like South Korea.
According to a confidential diplomatic document from July 30, 1993, then Foreign Minister Kabun Muto said the government would not conduct interviews with women from the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia after they finished interviews with South Korean women that same month. The document, which was telegraphed to the Japanese embassies in the three countries, said that the they wanted to avoid the interviews to prevent “fanning public interest (in the issue) unnecessarily,” according to Muto. This document was made before the landmark statement of then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, who apologized to the those who were victimized by the system that “severely injured the honor and dignity of many women.”
Back then, the head of a section at the Cabinet Secretariat that handles diplomatic issues said that they were also looking into the cases of women other than Koreans who were victims of the comfort women system, but probably because they wanted to prevent the issue from “sending ripples” throughout the region, they decided to just make it into a diplomatic issue between Tokyo and Seoul. “Other countries did not raise the issue, so we did not have the intention to look into it on our part,” said then deputy chief Cabinet secretary Nobuo Ishihara. He is one of the 12 officials who allowed themselves to be interviewed by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, which uncovered the documents. They also said the Southeast Asian countries were probably reluctant to push the issue because most of them were dependent on aid from Japan and had to avoid straining bilateral relations.
[ via Asahi Shimbun ]