Dear Mr. Ahn Shin-kwon,
Thank you very much for agreeing to the interview with Justiceforcomfortwomen.
We have the following questions. In addition to these questions, if you have anything else you would like to say, please kindly let us know.
1. What do the surviving comfort women in the House of Sharing think of the ‘Foundation for Reconciliation and Healing’ by Korea & Japan’s governments?
Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’ was a war crime committed by Japan, and the worst abuse of women’s rights in the history of mankind. Japan used women as a tool of war. This was a crime against humanity. To regain the honor of these women and reinstate human rights, the victims have held a Wednesday Demonstration every week in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul since February 1, 1992. The women have demanded that the Japanese government to make an official apology and legal reparations by visiting major cities around the world, e.g. the US, Canada, Japan, Germany and France, to give testimony.
The term Japanese Army ‘comfort women’ was coined by the perpetrator Japan. The victims argue that Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’ should be used instead. The perpetrator-oriented term should not be used. It’s high time to use the term that correctly expresses the essence of this issue, i.e. victims of Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’.
As the agreement between South Korea and Japan, signed on December 28, 2015, was reached without giving any explanation to the victims and obtaining their consent, it lacks legal validity in terms of its procedure. Furthermore, the perpetrator-centric coercive undemocratic procedure infringed on the fundamental rights of the victims. So this agreement, not including an official apology and legal reparations, must be abolished.
The agreement did not state an official apology. It excluded the Japanese Army’s role as the main culprit, and instead used ambiguous words like the involvement of the military without admitting responsibility. To ensure veracity, the prime minister representing Japan must apologize in person. The foreign minister’s apology is not an official apology.
The victims did not consent to the agreement, yet it was presented as a final and irreversible resolution. Over the years, the Abe government has denied the Kono Statement of 1993, which indirectly apologized to the victims under the Murayama government. The Abe government has attempted to distort and modify history.
After the announcement of the agreement, politicians denied coercion, and thoughtlessly called the victims prostitutes. There is nothing we can do when such absurd remarks are made about the victims in Japan. The expression ‘final and irreversible’ pales into insignificance beside these remarks, and it are nothing more than a one-way declaration for the benefit of the perpetrator. It is a pathetic agreement that cannot be fulfilled. Furthermore, we cannot understand why research and education, which were included in the Kono Statement, are missing. This would seem to indicate the intention of Japan to hide the facts of the case forever.
So, the victims are opposed to the agreement, and for that matter, they are also against the establishment of the Foundation for Reconciliation and Healing. Nevertheless, the government has pushed ahead with it, and launched the foundation. The victims did not entrust their individual rights to the claim and the right of representation to the foundation; yet, the foundation received the money that Japan gives to the victims. This was illegal.
It is not a matter of money being given to the victims. No matter which government is in power in Japan, the victims want Japan to take legal responsibility, i.e. not denying or modifying this issue. The victims are seeking legal reparation. The Japanese government’s contributions have come from the government’s reserve funds in the government budgets, i.e. money for international relief.
2. Recently many victims have passed away, and as they are all elderly women, time is limited. What kind of help can you give them?
Japan argues that Korea’s claim to Japan for war damages in 1965 put an end to the issue, and thus the claim expired, and the statute of limitations has expired.
When the Treaty on Basic Relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan was signed in 1965, however, Korea’s claim to Japan for war damages concerned the property rights under colonial rule. It was not therefore a claim against the war crimes committed on the battlefield by Japanese soldiers. The state cannot exercise individuals’ rights of claim on their behalf, and the issue of Japanese Army ‘comfort women’ was known to the international community in the early 1990’s,. Japanese civic groups and conscientious scholars have stated the same. The argument that individuals’ claims were included in Korea’s claim to Japan for war damages in 1965, and thus they are all resolved is an empty Japanese claim and nothing better than sophistry. War crimes do not have a statute of limitations. Do you think the victims will want a humanitarian resolution for these crimes t? Naturally they demand a legal resolution.
We must let the citizens of the world know Japan’s alteration of the true history.
3. Movies were made based on the victims’ stories(e.g. ‘Spirits’ Homecoming,’), and they are introduced in various ways, such as TV dramas, plays and dance, but unfortunately they seem to be concentrated in a certain period around the National Liberation Day. Do you want anything from the media or related organizations?
In 1993 under the Murayama government of Japan, the Kono Statement acknowledged the issue of Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery,’ and in 1995 Japan established the Asian Women’s Fund to ‘give consolatory payments to Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’ victims. In 2007, the US House of Representatives adopted Resolution HR121 to urge Japan to apologize, and various UN organizations tried to record history and educate people so as not to forget the history. This agreement lacks history education, and used the term ‘final and irreversible.’ This was a malicious attempt to erase history forever.
1. Recording in textbooks and education
2. Many researches and distribution of materials
3. Forming a consensus through movies and documentaries
4. There is a saying ‘A history forgotten is a history repeated.’ The Japanese government is continuously trying to erase the history of the victims. Japanese right-wingers send anti-Korean mails to my blog. How do you think we can bridge this gap in history, and concentrate on the real issue of human rights?
Human rights and history issues are important to all states and nations. To resolve this issue, we must demand with one voice that the Japanese government should make legal reparations and an official apology. In particular, individuals must join in with efforts to resolve these issues with a clear understanding of human rights and history. To try and resolve this issue, the civilian sector must work tirelessly to erect the Statue of Peace. This is the best thing we can do to resolve the issue. Korea and Japan must make a joint textbook and resolve this human rights issue together.
Again, thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts with us. We wish the very best of everything for surviving comfort women at the House of Sharing, and we will keep supporting them in anyways.
12 Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’ victims 12 sued the Korean government for compensation worth KRW100 million each. They say that they would not accept a single penny from the Japanese government if it is not legal reparations.
The Korean government must provide compensation for the damages they inflicted on Japanese Army ‘comfort women’ as it did not carry out the decision of the Constitutional Court in 2011. 12 Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’ victims, including 6 in the House of Sharing, filed a compensation suit in the court of the Republic of Korea against the Korean government on August 30 (Tuesday) 1:00pm. They claimed KRW100 million in damages per person.
What Japanese Army ‘Sex Slavery’ victims demanded was the Japanese government’s ‘legal responsibility,’ i.e. that Japan should clearly acknowledge their crimes, make an official apology and legal reparations, continuously work to acknowledge the truth, remember the victims, provide history education and punish criminals. The victims refused the ‘Asian Women’s Fund,’ which Japan established in 1995 to give KRW50 million per person, even though they were badly off and needed money. They refused this fund because it expressly denied ‘Japan’s legal responsibility.’
The Japanese government and court argued that the Korea’s claim to Japan for war damages in 1965 resolved all issues. As the Korean government did not make an authoritative interpretation of the victims’ rights of claim, 109 victims urged the Korean government on June 5, 2007 to resolve the issue of Japanese Army Sex Slavery’ according to the dispute resolution procedure set forth in the Settlement Agreement between South Korea and Japan of 1965, and filed a constitutional appeal.
On August 30, 2011, the Constitutional Court said, “There is a Constitutional demand to help Korean nationals, whose human dignity and value were seriously harmed by the organized and continuous illegal acts perpetrated by Japan, to exercise their right to demand compensation, and protect them.” It ruled that the Korean government’s failure to follow the dispute resolution procedure set forth in Article 3 of theTreaty on Basic Relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan of 1965 to hold the Japanese government liable for damages infringes on the victims’ fundamental rights of the Constitution.
According to the decision of the Constitutional Court, the victims requested that the Korean government resolve the issue of Japanese Army ‘comfort women’ in accordance with the procedure set forth in Article 3 of the Settlement Agreement between South Korea and Japan, including the arbitration procedure. On December 28, 2015, however, the Korean government agreed to ‘a final and irreversible resolution,’ ‘refraining from reproaching and criticizing Japan in the international community,’ and ‘efforts to address Japanese government’s concerns about the Statue of Peace.’ Nevertheless, the Japanese government refused to acknowledge its ‘legal responsibility’. The victims believed that the Korean government signed an agreement in violation of the decision of the Constitutional Court, and caused additional mental and physical damage to them, and filed a lawsuit against the Korean government.
On August 30 (Sunday), 6 Japanese Army‘Sex Slavery’ victims in the House of Sharing refused to receive KRW100 million in consolation money that the Japanese government said it would pay in accordance with the agreement between Korea and Japan. 10 of the 40 surviving comfort women are living together in the House of Sharing. Their ages range between 87 and 101, and their average age exceeds 90. They suffer from geriatric diseases, and the trauma of having been gang raped at an early age. To resolve this issue, they visited Tokyo and Osaka, Japan in January 2017, New York and Dallas, US in April, and are set to visit Okinawa and Fukuoka, Japan in October to provide testimony.
The Japanese government remitted￥1 billion, i.e. about KRW10.87 billion to the foundation for supporting comfort women, i.e. the ‘’Foundation for Reconciliation and Healing.’ It has been 25 years since the comfort women issue was first publicized in 1991 by the testimony of the late Kim Hak-soon. However, a humanitarian support fund, not legal reparations, will not help resolve this issue at all. It is not until the victims receive a single penny in legal reparations that the Japanese government acknowledges legal responsibility and no Japanese government will make reckless remarks like prostitution.
The Abe government has sought to nullify the Kono Statement of 1993 which admitted this issue. The actions of the Abe government have met with strong resistance from historians around the world. As this distortion and alteration of history continue, Japan must make legal reparations. Japan’s unilateral remittance is nothing but a trick to erase history. That’s why the 6 victims in the House of Sharing refuse to receive KRW100 million in cash.
When it comes to human rights, particularly the issue of history, the ruling and opposition parties cannot be different. Past governments tried many things to resolve this issue, but as Japan did not make legal reparations and an official apology that the victims want, they could not reach an agreement. The National Assembly must now demand with one voice that the agreement should be nullified and renegotiated. In particular, the National Assembly members must work together with an awareness of human rights and history. The private sector cannot but continuously erect the Statute of Peace at home and abroad to resolve this issue. In summary, then, the Statute of Peace is the best thing we can do to resolve this issue.