Tag Archives: Japan

South Korea Lawmaker Seeks Imperial Apology for Japan Sex Slaves

Japan’s emperor should hold hands with women forced to work in the country’s military brothels and make a personal apology if Tokyo wants to end the decades-old dispute, South Korea’s top lawmaker said.

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang said in an interview Thursday that Japanese Emperor Akihito — as the “the son of the main culprit of war crimes” — should deliver the apology before his planned abdication in May. Moon was asked how the two U.S. allies could resolve a worsening diplomatic feud fueled by disagreements over Japan’s 1910-45 occupation of the Korean Peninsula, much of it under the emperor’s late father, Hirohito.

“It only takes one word from the prime minister, who represents Japan — I wish the emperor would do it since he will step down soon,” said Moon, South Korea’s No. 2 elected official and a former presidential envoy to Japan. “Isn’t he the son of the main culprit of war crimes?

“So, if a person like that holds the hands of the elderly and says he’s really sorry, then that one word will resolve matters once and for all,” he said.

The Japanese prime minister’s office didn’t immediately respond Friday to a request for comment on Moon’s remarks.

The speaker’s comments underscore the widening divide between the neighbors, whose ties have sunk to one of their lowest points in more than half a century. The direct challenge to the emperor — a revered figure, whose father was once considered a living god — risked further angering Japan.

While Akihito offered his “deepest regret” in 1990 for Japan’s colonization of the peninsula, many Koreans argue the country has failed to properly atone for specific wrongdoings, especially forcing local women to serve as “comfort women” in military brothels. Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak outraged Japan in 2012 when he demanded a fuller apology as a condition for an imperial visit.

The dispute reemerged after President Moon Jae-in was elected in 2017 and moved to undo the comfort women pact his predecessor reached with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. After the death of comfort woman-turned-campaigner Kim Bok-dong last month, Moon vowed to do everything in his power to “correct the history” for the 23 surviving victims.

In the interview, Moon Hee-sang said the “most sincere apologies” and compensation fund Abe offered comfort women in the December 2015 deal fell short of the sort of personal contrition German leaders have shown for their own country’s wartime atrocities.

“That is a legal apology,” he said Thursday. “Countries can exchange apologies, but the problem is there are victims.”

More than 90 percent of South Koreans believed that Japan still needed to apologize over the comfort women issue, according to a joint survey of both countries published by the Seoul-based Hankook Daily and Tokyo-based Yomiuri newspaper in July. That compared with less than 8 percent of Japanese who said another statement was necessary.

In 2001, Akihito told reporters that he felt affinity with Korea because one of his ancestors was said to have married a Korean princess. The 85-year-old monarch is due to cede the throne to Crown Prince Naruhito in May, after saying his declining health had made it difficult to carry out his duties.

Moon Hee-sang, 73, has long been a fixture in progressive South Korean political circles and served as a top aide to the current president’s mentor. In July, he was elected speaker of the 300-seat National Assembly, a position of ceremonial rank second only to the president. The pair are not related.

 

Washington Visit

The speaker will likely be asked about South Korea-Japan ties next week, when he’s slated to lead a multiparty delegation to Washington to meet top U.S. officials including American counterpart Nancy Pelosi. The two sides are also expected to discuss U.S. President Donald Trump’s next meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un later this month in Vietnam.

Moon Hee-sang described the summit as a “great opportunity that arrives once in a thousand years” to establish peace on the peninsula, which been in a state of unresolved war since 1950. Reduced hostilities between the two Koreas would also improve ties with Japan, he said.

The speaker credited Moon Jae-in with bringing Trump and Kim to the negotiating table.

“He is the president who has won trust from the both sides,” Moon Hee-sang said. “The three have a fantastic chemistry.”

— With assistance by Jon Herskovitz, Isabel Reynolds, and Emi Nobuhiro

 

By Youkyung Lee, Bloomberg

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South Koreans take to the streets to pay respects to ‘comfort women’ activist Kim Bok-dong

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Supporters and mourners thronged the streets to say goodbye to Kim Bok-dong.

 

Seoul (CNN)Kim Bok-dong was brought to the Japanese Embassy in Seoul one last time Friday.

Her casket was driven slowly through the South Korean capital in a funeral procession attended by hundreds of mourners. Supporters braved sub-zero temperatures to say farewell to one of the country’s best known “comfort women.” A wartime euphemism for women and girls, like Kim, who were forced into providing sexual services for Japanese soldiers before and during World War II.
Many mourners held banners reading “Our hero Kim Bok-dong” and chanted anti-Japan slogans.
On Friday, an emotional ceremony was held in the street next to the bronze statue of a Korean girl that sits watch in front of the Japanese Embassy, a symbol of up to 200,000 women from South Korea and other Asian countries experts say were forced into Japanese wartime brothels.
A beloved leader of the “comfort women” protest movement, Kim’s supporters say she died as she lived, her final words a statement of rage against Japan, calling for the fight for justice to go on.
While Japan claims the issue is resolved by previous agreements and apologies, South Korean activists say not enough has been done — they demand a more formal apology and reparations from Tokyo.
“Kim taught us lessons about what peace is, what human rights are and what it is to hug the weak and the injured,” said Yoon Mi-hyang, president of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan.

‘I can’t put into words the scars it left’

According to Kim, Japanese soldiers came to her home when she was 14, telling her she would be sent away from Korea to help with the war effort — South Korea was a colony of Japan at the time, and Kim thought she was being sent to a factory.
Over the next eight years, Kim was moved around half a dozen countries as the Japanese imperial forces spread out across Asia.
“Every Sunday, soldiers came to the brothel from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Kim told CNN in an interview in 2012. “On Saturday from noon until 5 p.m., plus weekdays. I could not stand at the end of the weekend, I was physically broken.”
After the war, Kim traveled the world again, this time of her own volition, to tell her story and raise awareness of the “comfort women” issue. She even visited Japan.
She said she could never have a child because of her experience and Japan had ruined her life.
“In my old age, I would not have a single person who could call me mother, I could not have a child,” Kim added.

Apologies and reparations

Kim and her supporters repeatedly have called for the Japanese government to admit the wartime brothels were state-sanctioned. Some ultra-conservatives in Japan claim the women worked voluntarily for money.
“I want Japan to repent their wrongdoings and apologize,” she said in 2012. “Japan is saying that it was the civilians who committed such acts and they did not drag people forcefully, but people voluntarily went with then, which is a lie.”
Japanese prime ministers have apologized in the past, and Tokyo believed the issue was settled in 1965 as part of an agreement to normalize relations between the two countries.
Another landmark deal reached in 2015 saw another apology and a pledge of $8 million for a foundation to support the surviving “comfort women.”
“I think we did our duty for the current generation by reaching this final and irreversible resolution before the end of the 70th year of the war,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the time.
But the deal proved to be neither final nor irreversible as former “comfort women” rejected it, saying they had not been consulted.

A car carrying Kim Bok-dong's casket drives through downtown Seoul.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in supported their stance when he took power two years later, inviting survivors to the Blue House last year to apologize on behalf of the government.
“I want to say I’m sorry to all grandmothers for doing an inappropriate agreement with Japan,” Moon said.
He visited Kim in hospital last year as she was being treated for cancer and paid respects at her funeral.
There are just 23 known comfort woman who are still alive. Lee Yong-su, 90, is one of them. She attended the funeral Friday to say a final farewell to her friend.
The fear among those surviving is there won’t be a resolution to this issue that has soured relations between Japan and South Korea before their time comes.
Kim’s passing comes at a time when historically difficult relations between the two countries are badly frayed. Tokyo and Seoul are entangled in a military spat over flybys in the waters off the Korean Peninsula, and analysts have warned it could spiral out of control and drive a wedge between the two nations.

 

South Koreans march with coffin in ‘comfort women’ protest at Japan embassy

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People react as they hold yellow colored butterflies dedicated to former South Korean “comfort woman” Kim Bok-dong during her funeral in Seoul, South Korea, February 1, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
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SEOUL: South Korean protesters marched alongside the coffin of a “comfort women” campaigner to the Japanese embassy on Friday (Feb 1) in a protest over Japan’s use of forced labour in its wartime brothels.

A hearse carried the casket of Kim Bok-dong, who died this week, to the embassy to highlight the plight of “comfort women,” a Japanese euphemism for women who were forced into prostitution and sexually abused at Japanese military brothels before and during World War II.

“Japan must apologise,” some of the protesters chanted during the march. “Japan provide formal compensation.”

Mourners carried banners thanking Kim, 93, for her devotion to the cause and called on Japan to atone for its actions. Some signs were in the shape of butterflies, a symbol of freedom for suffering women.

The “comfort women” are a contentious issue between the two Asian neighbours which share a bitter history stemming from Japan’s 1910-45 colonisation of the Korean peninsula.

Japan says the claims have been settled by past agreements and apologies, and that the continued dispute may threaten relations between the two countries.

Kim, who died in hospital after battling cancer, was one of the first victims to come forward in 1992 and became a fixture at weekly protests outside the Japanese embassy.

Kim said she was 14 when she was first sent to a military brothel, and forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers also in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Lee Yong-soo, a fellow victim who paid her respects despite the cold weather, laid flowers at a bronze statue of a girl erected near the Japanese embassy to represent the women.

Many mourners quietly sobbed and wiped their eyes as organisers aired a video clip in which Kim shouted during a rally that she would raise similar girl statues around the world until Tokyo sincerely apologised.

A group of conservative activists, who argue the “comfort women” issue should be set aside to foster better ties with Japan, appeared at the embassy with South Korean flags.

“How dare they wave our precious national flags? They’re the same people as those Japanese politicians who distort history,” Lee said as a she sat next to the girl statue.

Articulate and charismatic, Kim was a vocal critic of a 2015 deal in which Tokyo apologised to the victims and provided one billion yen (US$9.1 million) to a fund in Seoul to help them.

Kim said the apology was not sincere because some Japanese leaders continued to deny the women were forced to work in brothels.

Moon’s government has said it will not seek to renegotiate the 2015 deal. Last year it vowed to shut down the Japan-sponsored fund and pursue a more “victim-oriented” approach.

With Kim’s death, only 23 registered South Korean survivors are still alive, underscoring a sense of urgency behind efforts by the women to receive a formal apology and legal compensation from Japan while their voices can still be heard.

Source: Reuters/nc

Wednesday comfort women rally to take place as usual, despite death of ex-sex slavery victim Kim Bok-dong

Arirang

The weekly “Wednesday rally” near the Japanese embassy in South Korea will be held as usual in Seoul today, despite the recent passing of Kim Bok-dong, a former “comfort woman” and well-known activist for the victims.
The rally, which marks its 27th anniversary this year, calls for Tokyo’s official apology and due compensation to the Korean victims of its wartime sexual enslavement.
The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan says the participants will take a moment to cherish the memory of Kim and all the other victims who have died recently.

 

Reporter : hyosunee88@gmail.com, Arirang

‘Fight until the end’: South Korean ‘comfort women’ campaigner dies at 93

Former South Korean "comfort woman" Lee Yong-soo mourns at the funeral of former South Ko

Former South Korean “comfort woman” Lee Yong-soo mourns at the funeral of former South Korean “comfort woman” Kim Bok-dong in Seoul, South Korea, January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

SEOUL: At 93, Kim Bok-dong died as she had lived for many years: at the heart of the controversy over Japan’s use of forced labour in its wartime brothels.

Kim, who died on Monday (Jan 29) at a hospital in the South Korean capital of Seoul, was a fixture at weekly protests outside the Japanese embassy calling for a sincere apology and compensation.

She remained angry at Japan until the end, her supporters said.

“She suddenly opened her eyes yesterday and told a long story … I couldn’t decipher everything but one thing I could hear clearly was that we had to fight until the end,” said Yoon Mee-hyang, who leads an advocate group for the women.

“Then she expressed strong anger towards Japan as she continued talking, before she regained her tranquillity,” Yoon told Reuters.

Kim was among the two dozen known surviving South Korean “comfort women”, a Japanese euphemism for women who were forced into prostitution and sexually abused at Japanese military brothels before and during World War Two.

Activists say they plan to march alongside Kim’s casket past Japan’s embassy on Friday, a demonstration that could further strain ties between Seoul and Tokyo.

The two Asian neighbours share a bitter history stemming from Japan’s 1910-45 colonisation of the Korean peninsula.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said during his visit to Kim’s funeral home on Tuesday it was “heartbreaking” that victims die without a resolution of the issue.

In a separate post on Facebook, Moon said Kim revealed a “hidden history” by becoming one of the first victims to come forward in 1992.

Kim was 14 when she was first sent to a military brothel, and forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers also in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, according to Yoon.

“SINCERE APOLOGY”

Articulate and charismatic, Kim was a vocal critic of a 2015 deal in which Tokyo apologised to the victims and provided one billion yen (US$9.1 million) to a fund in Seoul to help them.

Kim said it was not sincere because some Japanese leaders continued to deny the women were forced to work in brothels.

“We won’t accept it even if Japan gives 10 billion yen. It’s not about money. They’re still saying we went there because we wanted to,” Kim told a parliamentary session in September 2016.

Moon’s government has said it will not seek to renegotiate the 2015 deal. Last year it vowed to shut down the Japan-sponsored fund and pursue a more “victim-oriented” approach.

Japan says the claims have been settled by past agreements and apologies, and that the continued dispute may threaten relations between the two countries.

Only 23 registered South Korean survivors are still alive, highlighting a sense of urgency behind efforts by the women to receive a formal apology and legal compensation from Japan while their voices can still be heard.

Just hours before Kim passed away, a fellow victim only identifiable by her surname Lee had died, Yoon said.

Kim’s defence of victims’ rights earned the respect of one South Korean diplomat involved in their case.

“She was clever and unwavering under any circumstances,” said the diplomat who did not want to be named.

“All she wanted was genuine atonement, and we fully respected it and felt sorry even when she wasn’t happy with our work.”

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Daewoung Kim and Yijin Kim; Editing by Josh Smith and Darren Schuettler)

Source: Reuters

Japan’s ‘comfort women’ cannot be eradicated

IN December 2017, a memorial was erected along the Roxas Boulevard facing Manila Bay. It commemorated the Filipino comfort women who were forced to work as sexual slaves in Japanese military brothels during World War 2.

In late April 2018, after Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was “extremely regrettable” that such statues were erected, the Philippines’ Department of Public Works and Highways removed the statue. As Japan has an important role in infrastructure investment, President Rodrigo Duterte suggested the statue could be placed on private property.

On December 28, another statue for the former comfort women was installed in a Catholic-run shelter for the elderly and the homeless in San Pedro, Laguna. After the Japanese embassy in Manila stated such statues were “extremely disappointing, not compatible with the Japanese government,” the statue was removed two days later.

This time the Duterte government noted that the statue was “dedicated to peace and women’s empowerment,” used private funds and was built inside private property. It was freedom of expression. Lila Pilipina, an advocacy group for Filipino comfort women, said the Japanese government was demanding that we “forget its war crime.”

The removal of the second statue fosters a perception that there is a systematic effort by the Shinzo Abe government to eradicate public statues for comfort women. By the same logic, all Holocaust memorials should be taken down, along with other memorials dedicated to historical atrocities because they all are inconvenient reminders of the past. Yet, the German government has a very different stance toward the Nazi era. Mental lobotomy does not prevent real-life tragedies.

Until 1993, the Japanese government had denied the history of the comfort women. But that year, after a government study, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono recognized that the Japanese Imperial Army had forced comfort women to work in military-run brothels during World War 2. In 2015, Kono reaffirmed the statement.

So, why is the Abe administration revising history? The reasons are historical — and perhaps personal.

Sexual slavery, Nobusuke Kishi and Cold War
The number of Japan’s wartime sex slaves has been estimated at 200,000 women, although Chinese scholars in Shanghai, where a Japanese “comfort station” was established already in 1932, put the real figure at 360,000 to 400,000.

In revisionist Japanese history, the role of these women has been downplayed. The very term comfort women is a euphemism for the Japanese Imperial Army’s sex slaves. Most women were from areas occupied by Japan, particularly China and Korea, but also the Philippines. There were comfort stations in Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Singapore, East Timor and elsewhere. There were also hundreds of “comfort women” from the Netherlands and Australia.

Unlike his predecessors as prime minister and head of the Liberal Democratic Party, Abe has far-right views about history. He belongs to the ultranationalist Nippon Kaigi, which seeks to re-militarize Japan and to revive Imperial Japan and which, among other things, vehemently denies Japan’s comfort women history during World War 2. That’s why in the late 1990s, he led the controversial Japanese history textbook reform, which downplayed Japan’s war crimes, including crimes against comfort women.

But there is also a more personal reason. Abe comes from a political family dynasty. His grandfather Kan Abe and father Shintaro Abe were prominent politicians. His mother is the daughter of the highly controversial former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi. Starting in 1933, Kishi praised Nazi Germany as Japan’s model. In 1937, he signed a degree calling for the use of slave labor in Japanese puppet state Manchukuo. The enslavement of men paved the way for the exploitation of Chinese, Korean and other women as sex slaves in Japan’s occupied colonies in Asia.

Due to Kishi’s brutal rule in Manchukuo and his participation in the Tojo War Cabinet during World War 2, he was imprisoned for over three years as a Class A war criminal. In Germany, Nazi leaders were prosecuted, but not in Japan. When Washington launched its Cold War against the Soviet Union, it needed Japan as a key ally in Asia.

That’s when many Japanese war leaders were freed and enlisted by the United States to suppress Japanese communists and socialists. The most notable of them was Kishi, “America’s favorite war criminal.” who played a key role in the “1955 System,” which made the Liberal Democratic Party the dominant political force in Japan and America’s key ally until today.

Rising stakes in international debate
Wartime sex slaves are not “just history.” While Abe’s reformers have tried to open the economy to more women, his politics promotes a remilitarization that most Japanese oppose. And while Japan is one of the world’s major economies, it ranks only 110th worldwide in the Global Gender Report, far behind Myanmar and India. The lingering imperial fantasies contribute to Japan’s economic decline.

Forced silence about wartime sexual slavery is not acceptable in the rest of Asia. In December, 2015, Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who was later impeached for corruption, agreed to settle the “comfort women” dispute. Tokyo would pay a paltry $8.3 million to a fund supporting remaining victims. South Korea would remain mum about the issue and remove a memorial statue for the victims.

South Koreans criticized the odd pact. After the imprisonment of Park, Seoul began to demand recognition for its victims, along with the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The UN human rights commission (OHCHR) also called on Japan to acknowledge its violation of the human rights of comfort women, take legal responsibility and punish responsible individuals.

As international appeals did not work, the debate moved to a new stage. Recently, a South Korean court authorized the seizure of assets belonging to Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, after the Japanese firm failed to comply with an earlier order to compensate victims of forced labor. Last week, Tokyo called the court decision “extremely regrettable,” while South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged Japan not to “politicize the issue” and to take a “more humble attitude towards the past.”

The issue of the comfort women should not be politicized. As the Kono statement evidences, most of Japan’s political leadership and most Japanese have acknowledged the comfort women history since the early 1990s. As polls indicate, only about a fifth of the population doesn’t — and that’s Abe’s core constituency.

If the Abe administration fails to acknowledge the past, it cannot win the future that overshadows a prosperous, but heavily indebted and declining nation.

The statues to commemorate the legacy of comfort women represent historical veracity and overdue moral right. Efforts to eradicate them will ultimately fail. When one is taken down, another will be erected elsewhere – until the truth prevails.

 

By Dan Steinbock, The Manila Times

Comfort women’s rally marks 27th anniversary

The 1,369th Wednesday rally takes place in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on Jan. 9, 2019, marking its 27th anniversary. (Yonhap)

The 1,369th Wednesday rally takes place in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on Jan. 9, 2019, marking its 27th anniversary. (Yonhap)

 

SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Korea Bizwire) — A weekly civic rally calling for the Japanese government to give an official apology and compensation to the Korean victims of the Japanese army’s World War II sexual enslavement marked its 27th anniversary Wednesday.

The first Wednesday rally was held Jan. 8, 1992, on the occasion of then Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa’s visit to Seoul. The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan organized it.

Some 200,000 Asian women, mostly Koreans, are estimated to have been forced into sexual slavery at front-line Japanese military brothels during the war. They are euphemistically called “comfort women.”

“We’ve long made a seven-point demand to Japan, including an official apology, compensation, punishment of those responsible for the crime, and the establishment of a memorial and a historical museum,” the council said in a statement during its 1,369th protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

“But the Japanese government has yet to admit the crime and to apologize for it,” it said.

The rally has been held usually in the presence of former comfort women, but they could not attend the anniversary due to health problems.

At present, only 25 former comfort women are alive in the country.

 

Article from Yonhap News