GENEVA–South Korea’s foreign minister for the first time has raised the dispute with Japan over “comfort women” at a United Nations forum, calling the wartime system of sexual enslavement a “universal human rights issue.”
In a keynote address at the U.N. Human Rights Council on March 5, Yun Byung-se also lambasted recent moves by political leaders in Japan who want to revise a landmark 1993 government statement of apology to former comfort women.
Japan’s attitude “is an affront to humanity and disregards the historical truth,” he said.
The 1993 statement, issued in the name of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, acknowledged the involvement of the Imperial Japanese Army in the recruitment of women who were forced to provide sex to Japanese wartime troops.
Yun also criticized recent remarks by Yoshitaka Sakurada, the senior vice minister of education, who openly supported moves to review the 1993 apology.
According to the South Korean government, it was the first time for its foreign minister to raise the comfort women issue at the UNHRC.
Yun emphasized that the international community has been working hard to put an end to sexual violence in armed conflicts since the Rwanda genocide and the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. He said that “without repenting the past wrong-doings, a brighter future will not be secured.”
Yun also quoted from the testimony of a former Dutch comfort woman, emphasizing that it is not just a problem between South Korea and Japan.
He also demanded that the Japanese government take responsibility and educate current and future generations with regard to the comfort women issue.
Yun said that South Korea and Japan, which share the same values and interests, should be able to cooperate to secure peace and stability in Northeast Asia.