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China, Taiwan Apply Pressure to Japan Over ‘Comfort Women’ Issue


A Chinese girl from one of the Japanese Army’s “comfort battalions” sits on a stretcher, awaiting interrogation at a camp in RangoonA Chinese girl from one of the Japanese Army’s “comfort battalions” sits on a stretcher, awaiting interrogation at a camp in Rangoon

Image Credit: UK Imperial War Museums

On December 28, Japan and South Korea announced a landmark deal to resolve the issue of “comfort women,” the euphemism used for women forced to sexually service Imperial Japanese Army troops during World War II. The deal announced last Monday sees Shinzo Abe apologize, as Japan’s prime minister, for the women’s suffering. Japan’s government also pledged to provide 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) to a fund for the women, to be established by the South Korean government.

The “comfort women” issue, and the degree to which Japan’s government will (or won’t) accept responsibility for the forced recruitment of the women, has been a major flashpoint in Japan-South Korea relations. However, South Korea isn’t the only country from which “comfort women” were drawn, and the deal between South Korea and Japan has sparked mixed reactions from other states — most notably China and Taiwan.

China (along with South Korea) has been the most vocal in accusing Japan’ of “whitewashing” history. Unsurprisingly, then, Beijing adopted a cautious stance on the comfort women deal, insisting that it would have to “wait and see” whether Japan’s actions matched its words. When the deal was announced, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang spent more time highlighting the historical issue than addressing the deal. “The forced recruitment of the ‘comfort women’ is a grave crime against humanity committed by the Japanese militarism during the Second World War against people of Asian and other victimized countries,” Lu said, urging Japan to “face up to and reflect upon its history of aggression and properly deal with the relevant issue with a sense of responsibility.”

The general consensus in Chinese state media is that the comfort women deal does not go far enough. Xinhua in particular has repeatedly called Japan’s sincerity into question in its articles on the agreement (see here, here, and here for examples). In particular, Xinhua argued that by making a deal specifically with South Korea, Japan was not acknowledging the full extent of the “comfort women” issue. “Apart from Korean women, victims also include the women of China, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, who also deserve an apology and compensation,” one Xinhua editorial pointed out.

The last surviving member of a group of Chinese comfort woman seeking to sue the Japanese government passed away in November at the age of 89. Yet the issue continues to live on, with China’s first memorial to the comfort women opening in December in the city of Nanjing. Beijing also sought to have documents related to the comfort women issue inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, though that attempt was unsuccessful.

When asked if China would hold its own talks with Japan on the comfort women issue, Lu simply repeated China’s call for Japan “to face squarely and reflect upon its history of aggression and deal with the relevant issue in a responsible manner.” Though Chinese state media has called for Japan to apologize to and compensate comfort women of all nationalities, there’s no indication the that government is seriously negotiating on the issue with Japan.

By contrast, Taiwan is preparing to enter negotiations with Japan, seeking a deal similar to the one announced with South Korea. On December 29, President Ma Ying-jeou reiterated his government’s stance on the comfort women issue, saying, “The Republic of China government has always said that Japan should apologize to Taiwanese comfort women and offer compensation to them.” The same day, Foreign Minister David Lin said Taiwan would “continue negotiating with Japan to restore the dignity of Taiwan women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army.” He said Japan had agreed to adopt a “flexible” stance and conduct negotiations, which will start in January in Tokyo.

On Tuesday, a cross-agency working group (which including a comfort women advocacy group, the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation) met to hammer out a strategy for negotiations with Japan. According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Taipei will ask Tokyo to “issue a formal apology to Taiwanese comfort women, offer compensation to the surviving women, and restore their reputation.” Taiwan’s top representative in Japan, Shen Ssu-tsun, met on Monday with the head of Japan’s Interchange Association, which handles relations with Taiwan, to discuss the issue.

Charles Chen, a spokesperson for Taiwan’s Presidential Office, confirmed on Tuesday that Taiwan wants the same deal that Japan offered to South Korea. However, Taiwan was unnerved by comments from Japan’s chief cabinet secretary that Tokyo does not, in fact, intend to start a new round of negotiations with other countries based on the South Korea deal. Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Japan has dealt with the issue “in a sincere manner considering each circumstance” in different countries. He indicated that the situations in other countries were “different” from the one in South Korea, suggesting that Japan will not extend to same offer to other governments.

According to the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, there were around 2,000 Taiwanese women forced into sexual slavery during World War II. Of the 58 who came forward to demand an apology and compensation from Japan, four are still alive.

By Shannon Tiezzi from The Diplomat


South Korean ‘comfort women’ protest against accord with Japan

Hundreds of South Korean protesters joined two surviving former “comfort women” on Wednesday to denounce an agreement with Japan to resolve an issue stemming from Japan’s wartime past that has long plagued ties between neighbors.

The two “comfort women”, as those who were forced to work at Japan’s wartime military brothels are euphemistically known, criticized the government for agreeing with Japan on Monday to “finally and irreversibly” settle the issue.

“The government cannot be trusted,” said one of the women, Lee Yong-su, 88.

She said she and fellow survivors were never consulted by officials at they negotiated the agreement.

“We will continue to fight until the end,” she said.

She and the other protesters, including students, opposition legislators and civic activists, are demanding what they call a sincere apology from Japan and formal compensation for victims.

“We did nothing wrong,” Lee said. “Japan took us to be comfort women and still tries to deny its crime.”

Under the agreement, Japan will establish a fund to help surviving victims and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe renewed an apology.

The United States, keen to see its Asian allies improve ties, welcomed the accord.

The protesters spilled onto the street in front of Japan’s embassy in Seoul and milled around a bronze statue of a barefoot teenage girl, symbolizing the women forced to work in the Japanese brothels.

Weekly rallies have been held outside the embassy since 1992 to demand a sincere Japanese government apology and reparations for victims.

For Japan, the statue, erected in 2011, has become a symbol of South Korea’s unwillingness to lay the issue to rest.

Strains between Japan and South Korea have prevented them from signing an agreement to share sensitive military information.

A year ago, they signed a three-way pact under which South Korea routes its information to the United States, which then passes it on to Japan, and vice versa.

Scholars debate the question of how many women were exploited.

South Korean activists say there may have been as many as 200,000 Korean victims, only a few of whom have ever told of the abuse they endured at the hands of Japanese forces before or during the Second World War.

Japan considers ‘comfort women’ statue removal a precondition for providing 1 billion yen

For Japan, the ball is now in South Korea’s court to cement the Dec. 28 landmark agreement on resolving the “comfort women” issue.

Tokyo believes that South Korea has accepted the removal of a controversial statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul as a precondition for Japan providing 1 billion yen ($8.3 million) in government funds for a foundation to help former comfort women.

Several Japanese government sources said that South Korea provided behind-the-scenes confirmation about the precondition.

But when he read out details of the agreement on Dec. 28, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se only said that Seoul “will make efforts to resolve the issue in an appropriate manner by holding discussions with the related organization on what response was possible.”

Japanese government sources said they are well aware that South Korean government officials have much work ahead of them.

The statue of a girl representing the comfort women, a euphemism for women forced to provide sex to Japanese troops before and during World War II, was set up in 2011 by the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, a private organization.

The council has shown no signs that it will remove the statue.

“It is unthinkable that the South Korean government would become involved in the moving of the statue,” a council official has said.

South Korean officials had long insisted that they would be unable to do anything about the statue because it had been erected by a private organization.

But in the final stages of negotiations on resolving the comfort women issue, Japanese officials made clear that moving the statue would be necessary if Japan was to put up the 1 billion yen for a foundation to be established by South Korea to provide support to the former comfort women and to pass on the history of what they went through to future generations.

In addition, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had made known to close associates that his conservative supporters would not stand for any agreement on the comfort women issue without the statue being properly dealt with.

Japan’s adamant stance led to the mention of the statue in the agreement read out on Dec. 28 by Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Yun.

By HAJIMU TAKEDA/ Staff Writer, Asahi Newspaper

For whom the agreement between Japan and Korean governments for?

The statue facing the Japanese Embassy in Seoul

Korea and Japanese governments announced that they finally reached an agreement to compensate and acknowledge the comfort women(sex slaves) from the World War 2. However, after the details of the agreement were presented, the surviving comfort women have been devastated. In the agreement, Japanese government did not mention legal responsibility on the matter. Also, Korean government has not consulted the victims prior to the negotiation, which invites doubts on the sincerity of each related government.

Asahi newspaper reported that the agreement from Japanese party requires the removal of the comfort women statue, which is facing the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

After the controversy and outcry from the surviving comfort women and general Korean public, Korean government has tried to calm down the issue.

A surviving comfort woman asks the vice minister of Foreign affairs,visiting to explain Korean government’s position,

“I do not need any money. I want that our part of history is recorded officially and acknowledged legally.For whom this government is existing? For whom this agreement is for?”


Former brothel a memorial to WWII’s ‘comfort women’

A MEMORIAL for “comfort women” during World War II opened to the public in east China’s Jiangsu Province on December 2, 2015.

It is the first in China’s mainland dedicated to the group, and was identified by victims as a military brothel run by the invading Japanese more than 70 years ago.

The memorial in Nanjing, Jiangsu’s capital, covers more than 3,000 square meters and comprises eight two-story buildings.

The Japanese took the city, then China’s capital, on December 13, 1937, where they killed 300,000 people within six weeks in what was later dubbed the Nanjing Massacre, or the Rape of Nanking.

The brothel is the largest former “comfort station” still standing.

An estimated 200,000 women from China and many others from the Korean Peninsula, the Philippines, Indonesia and some other countries, euphemistically known as “comfort women,” were forced into sexual servitude by Japanese troops.

In Nanjing alone, there were more than 40 military brothels.

In the courtyard of the memorial, there are sculptures of three “comfort women,” including one who is pregnant.

That woman was Pak Yong-sim from Korea. Once living in Room 19 of building No. 2, Pak revisited the site on November 21, 2003. She died in 2012.

More than 1,600 artefacts and 680 photos are on display, including potassium permanganate given to the memorial by late victim Lei Guiying. The powder was used in the brothel for disinfection..

“My mom was raped at the age of 9, and became a ‘comfort woman” at 13,” said Tang Jiaguo, Lei’s adopted son. “She didn’t want to talk about her past until 2006, when she testified for the crime of Japanese.”

Lei died in 2007. In her will she wrote, “May the tragedy not be repeated. May there be no more wars.”

“For a long time, the history of ‘comfort women’ was buried,” said Su Zhiliang, a professor at Shanghai Normal University.

“In recent years, the Japanese made repeated attempts to tamper with history. The move angered many whose countries had been plagued by the ‘comfort woman’ system. That is why countries like China research and protect the history.”

Yun Ju-Keyng from South Korea, president of the history museum Independence Hall of Korea, was at yesterday’s opening ceremony.

“This year marks the 70th anniversary of China’s victory over Japanese invaders, and also independence of the South Korea,” she said. “Denial of the Japanese government over the past crimes hurt the victims, who are elderly now, a second time. China and South Korea should join hands in exposing the atrocities of the Japanese imperial army, so former ‘comfort women’ can live to see the offenders apologize.”

Filipino veterans, comfort women remember Japanese invasion

MANILA – Former Filipino World War II fighters and victims of Japan’s military brothels remembered on Tuesday the 74th anniversary of Japan’s invasion of the Philippines and the start of the greatest war in the Pacific.

“On Dec. 8, 1941, I was a fourth year student. One day, when the war broke out, we were told, ‘get out,’ and we joined the Hunters,” recalled Proculo Mojica, 92, a former member of a paramilitary service composed of students that fought against the invading Japanese soldiers until the end of the war in 1945.

The Hunters ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) guerrillas were one of the armed groups that resisted the Japanese occupation in the Philippines. It was formed in January 1942, a few weeks after Japan’s invasion of the country, growing from an initial 70-member force to more than 25,000 in its final form.

Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 8, 1941 was immediately followed by attacks on what was then a U.S. colony, the Philippines, leading to its occupation through 1945.

Speaking in a forum, Mojica, who has authored a book on the group’s struggle, was joined by fellow Hunter member Domingo Reyes, 88, Chinese guerrilla Dee Kong Hi, 92, and former comfort women Hilaria Bustamante, 89, and Estelita Dy, 85.

The Chinese guerrilla group was called the Wha Chi, or the Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese Guerrilla Squadron, and was formed in May 1942. Playing key roles in various anti-Japanese battles in the country, the group was only demobilized in September 1945 after Japan’s announcement in August that year of its unconditional surrender.

The two “comfort women,” a euphemism for women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during the war, meanwhile, are members of Lila Pilipina (League of Filipino Grandmothers).

“We should remember that today is the 74th anniversary of the start of World War II in the Philippines, and we are meaningfully commemorating it with our very special guests in order to help build peace all over the world and in Asia,” forum organizer and moderator, Wilson Lee Flores, said.

In his testimony, Dee recounted the abuse he experienced and witnessed from Japanese soldiers, as well as the hardships, mainly due to lack of food, faced during wartime.

Bustamante and Dy, for their part, reiterated their demand for an official public apology and just compensation from the Japanese government, as well as the inclusion of sexual slavery during the war in Japan’s historical accounts.

They also lamented over the lack of support from the Philippine government for their struggle.

“Our struggle is against the Japanese government. The lolas (grandmothers) wanted compensation from the Japanese government…it was perpetrated by the soldiers, and it was policy from the top to the bottom of the Japan Imperial Army. So the responsibility lies with the government. We want the Japanese government to recognize, accept and be accountable,” Rechilda Extremadura, executive director of Lila Pilipina, said.

Of the estimated 200,000 victims of Japanese military sexual slavery in Asia during World War II, some 1,000 were from the Philippines, she said.

The forum revealed the difference between the status of comfort women, a number of whom are still crying for justice to this day, and Filipino war veterans, who, aside from enjoying continuing aid from a bank set up using part of the war reparations from Japan, were also able to get assistance from the government of the United States.

Miguel Angelo Villa-Real of the Philippine Veterans Bank said his organization is willing to help document and propagate the stories of comfort women, as they did for war veterans, while Philippine Sen. Cynthia Villar expressed approval of the possibility of congress helping comfort women get compensation from the national budget.

It is estimated that more a million Filipinos died during the war, the bulk of whom died during the major battles leading to the end of the war. Thousands of foreigners, including American and Japanese soldiers, suffered the same fate.

After the war, the Philippines’ capital Manila was said to be second only to Warsaw in Poland in a list of Allied capital cities which sustained the most damage.

By Kyoto News

Kenzaburo Oe urges Abe to reflect on Japan’s past


Japanese Nobel Prize-winning novelist says Japanese Prime Minister didn’t live through World War II and doesn’t understand Japan’s crimes
“Shinzo Abe is refusing to acknowledge Japan’s terrible past. Japan needs the imagination to forge a new reality through profound reflection on the war.”
Novelist Kenzaburo Oe delivered a scathing critique of the refusal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other Japanese political leaders to acknowledge the country’s past actions. The remarks came while the 81-year-old author was attending the Yonsei-Kim Dae-jung World Future Forum, an event staged by Yonsei University and the Kim Dae-jung Presidential Library and Museum at the university‘s Baekyang Concert Hall on Mar. 13 to mark the 130th anniversary of the school’s foundation.
“They say imagination alone is not enough to solve the social problems of today, but I believe imagination is something powerfully connected to reality,” Oe said as part of a keynote speech titled “The Future of Human Sensibility.”
The novelist, who was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1994, was in South Korea at the invitation of Kim Dae-jung Peace Center chairperson and former First Lady Kim Hee-ho.
“As part of the postwar generation, I developed all the sensibilities in my work while imagining a new society after the war in my teens and twenties,” Oe recalled.
“It seems like that’s the period that Abe most hates to remember and feels most ashamed of,” he continued, directing a message of blunt criticism toward the current administration. “He didn’t experience the Second World War, and I don‘t know he can even imagine just how terrible the crimes Japan committed back then were.”
“Abe wants to forge a new era by rejecting all the efforts Japanese society made to achieve something democratic and humane in the ten years after the war,” Oe said of the administration.
“The bigger problem is that over half of the Japanese public is sending votes of support to the administration,” he added, sounding a note of concern about the strong approval Abe enjoys at home.
“The crimes Japan committed against Asia, and the people of the Korean Peninsula and Korea in particular, were truly atrocious, and I don’t feel that Japan has apologized enough for them,” Oe said.
Oe, who published his first book in 1958, is one of the leading writers and pacifists of Japan’s postwar era. Awarded the Nobel Prize in 1994 for works such as “The Silent Cry”, he has been a consistent voice against the Abe administration’s militarization and nuclear power in the wake of the 2011 East Japan earthquake and tsunami.
Oe, who has been in poor health recently, said, “In Korean years, I’m 81, so I’m already over eighty.”
“Our future now hinges on forging a new sensibility in individuals. I will spend the last of my days pleading and thinking on those lines,” he continued.
“If we can combine feeling and sensitivity as people of the future generation who are capable of making a contribution to the world, I believe we will gain bearings toward a clearer form of wisdom.”