A week after the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that it is reviewing interviews of former “comfort women,” victims and civic groups are now demanding Abe to formally acknowledge his nation’s hand in the issue and apologize to the victims. “Comfort women” is the euphemistic term for women forced into sexual labor during the WWII by Japanese Imperial Army officers.
While Japan has already issued an apology previously in 1993 through then-Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, the statement made no direct mention of Japan’s direct responsibility for it, just that it participated in the system. In 2007 during Abe’s first term as a prime minister, the Cabinet which handled the issue and calls for compensating victims said there was no actual proof or documents that would say the Japanese forced the women into it. While Abe has promised repeatedly not to revise the 1993 apology and stand by it, news of the current review being carried out on the accounts of former comfort women has caused uproar among the remaining five former victims and their supporters. They have approached the government on Monday to hand out hundreds of official documents that would prove there was coercion from the Japanese army. They are urging Abe to formally acknowledge that the wartime army of Japan created and ran the brothel system, which forced women into it. Aside from that, the group is also demanding that a new investigation be conducted and to release all official records pertaining to the issue as well as educate people on what really happened based on the evidence gathered.
Nine years ago, Japan had set up a private fund worth ¥2 million (approx. US$19,500) to compensate the victims, but not everyone was willing to accept the money because it was veiled as a private fund and was not acknowledged publicly as compensation by the Japanese government. The 529 documents submitted by the group mostly came from Japanese Defense Ministry archives, while others were from archives of other governments, including U.S., Taiwan, China and the Netherlands. It was compiled beginning in 1993 by Japanese historians, including Yoshiaki Yoshimi from Chuo University.
[via The Guardian]