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Comfort women issue is S. Korea’s diplomatic defeat

“Did the South Korean and Japanese government confirm that [the one billion yen to be paid by Japan] was not ‘compensation’?” (a Japanese reporter)
“There has been no change whatsoever in [Tokyo’s] position that the issue of claim rights for comfort women has already been resolved.” (Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida)
The main focus of journalists’ questions at an Aug. 12 press conference by Japanese Foreign Minister Kishida was on the basic nature of a pledged payment of one billion yen (US$9.9 million) by the Japanese government, which Kishida said would be disbursed “as soon as possible” according to a Dec. 28 agreement reached last year with Seoul on the comfort women issue. The reporters asked whether Japan had confirmed with South Korea that the contribution was not intended as compensation for the women’s drafting as sexual slaves to the Japanese military during Korea’s colonization (1910-45).
“There has been no change in the Japanese government’s existing position,” Kishida replied.
It was a brief exchange, but it reaffirmed what kind of deal the Dec. 28 agreement actually was.
Seoul and Tokyo’s battle on the comfort women issue over the past five years appears likely to go down in history as a defining moment in diplomatic history – one that made clear just how far South Korea’s power and autonomy reach in a northeast Asia order where conflict between the US and China is surfacing ever more visibly.
The emergence of the comfort women as a major social issue in South Korea came in the wake of a historic press conference on Aug. 14, 1991, by survivor Kim Hak-sun. After South Korea became a democracy in the late 1980s, comfort women survivors in South Korea began waging a concerted campaign to demand reparations and compensation from the Japanese government. Their calls were met with an adamant insistence from Tokyo that individual rights to claim damages had disappeared with the 1965 Korea-Japan Claims Settlement Agreement. Japan did propose a compromise: the Asian Women’s Fund (1995-2007) which acknowledged its “moral responsibility” rather than its legal responsibility for the inexpungible crime against women. It was the first “seal” on the comfort women issue.
The next two decades or so saw a dogged battle by the survivors and South Korean civil society, which used relationships of international solidarity to build a global understanding that the victims had been sexual slaves, and the system a war crime by Japan. At home, they waged a campaign to make the South Korea-Japan agreement document public. As a result, Seoul modified its previous position in Aug. 2005 to argue that three major issues had not been resolved by the agreement: the comfort women, Koreans on Sakhalin Island, and victims in the atomic bombings of Japan. The Constitutional Court ruled in Aug. 2011 that it was unconstitutional for Seoul not to engage in diplomatic negotiations with Tokyo to resolve the comfort women issue. The first seal had been broken.
The national fervor was carried on by Park Geun-hye: after becoming president in Feb. 2013, she ended up in a stiff battle with the Shinzo Abe administration with her demands for a “good-faith first step” from Tokyo on the issue.
This was more or less the limit of what Seoul could do alone diplomatically, however. As US-China frictions escalated, Washington announced in Oct. 2013 that it “welcomed” Japan’s exercise of collective self-defense rights. By the spring of 2015, senior US officials were being vocal about the need for all three sides to – as US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter put it in April – “face the future.” By the time of last year’s Liberation Day address on Aug. 15, Seoul had changed course, accepting the insulting statement by Abe – which made no mention at all of Japan’s colonization of other Asian countries – and attempting to improve relations. The Dec. 28 agreement was the logical result. With it, the victims’ rightful demands were once again sealed away.
The South Korean government has tried to present its actions as a “resolution” to the issue. But as the strenuous objections from the victims and public show, the deal is being seen as a lopsided diplomatic defeat. Kishida’s comments on Aug. 12 suggest the remain negotiations will be tough. That day, Kishida said the one billion yen could only be used within “the scope of uses agreed upon by the Japanese and South Korean governments,” and that steps would be taken to ensure the “expenditure for projects” would not be given as a lump-sum payment to individual victims. South Korea finds itself in the situation of having the comfort women issue “finally and irreversibly” resolved as a condition for receiving one billion yen that it cannot even use as it wants. Faced with the US’s East Asia strategy, Japan’s historical revision, the Park administration’s weak sense of her place in history, all the achievements made by South Korean society in the 71 years since liberation now appear to be going up in smoke.
By Gil Yun-hyung, Tokyo correspondent, HynKyuRe News Daily

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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.”

“Pope Francis gave me a Butterfly badge..everything will be all right.”

91 year old Kim, Yang-joo, surviving comfort woman
91 year old Kim, Yang-joo, surviving comfort woman
Pope Francis led a mass with the Butterfly badge on him.
Pope Francis led a mass with the Butterfly badge on him.

On the bed of a nursing home, while suffering from early Alzheimer, Kim, Yang-joo, 91 years-old, former comfort woman said in a clear voice,”Pope Francis gave me a butterfly, so everything will be all right.”

Even her memory has started fading, Kim, Yang-joo remembered the day at Myoung-Dong Catholic Church, where she and other 5 comfort women attended a mass with Pope Francis. Pope Francis shared and acknowledged the pain of comfort women by attaching a Butterfly badge, which is a symbol of protesting assault,discrimination against women, at the mass.

Kim, Yang-joo, borne in 1924,with her mother, ran away home from abusive father when she was young. They were so poor, Yang-joo followed a person who offered her a good job. However, she was taken as a comfort woman.

Since then, her life has been so difficult. She has never married, earning her living as a maid to many households.

At the age of 91, her health gets deteriorated and her only wish is now that Japanese government acknowledges the fact and takes responsibility, and apologizes to her.

Not much time is left for her.

187 prestigious historians all over the world urged Japanese government to recognize the comfort women issues.

The undersigned scholars of Japanese studies express our unity with the many courageous historians in Japan seeking an accurate and just history of World War II in Asia. Because Japan is a second home as well as a field of research for many of us, we write with a shared concern for the way that the history of Japan and East Asia is studied and commemorated.

In this important commemorative year, we also write to celebrate seventy years of peace between Japan and its neighbors. Postwar Japan’s history of democracy, civilian control of the military, police restraint, and political tolerance, together with contributions to science and generous aid to other countries, are all things to celebrate as well.

Yet problems of historical interpretation pose an impediment to celebrating these achievements. One of the most divisive historical issues is the so-called “comfort women” system. This issue has become so distorted by nationalist invective in Japan as well as in Korea and China that many scholars, along with journalists and politicians, have lost
sight of the fundamental goal of historical inquiry, which should be to understand the human condition and aspire to improve it.

Exploitation of the suffering of former “comfort women” for nationalist ends in the countries of the victims makes an international resolution more difficult and further insults the dignity of the women themselves. Yet denying or trivializing what happened to them is equally unacceptable. Among the many instances of wartime sexual violence and military prostitution in the twentieth century, the “comfort women” system was distinguished by its large scale and systematic management under the military, and by its exploitation of young, poor, and vulnerable women in areas colonized or occupied by Japan.

There is no easy path to a “correct history.” Much of the archive of the Japanese imperial military was destroyed. The actions of local procurers who provided women to the military may never have been recorded. But historians have unearthed numerous documents demonstrating the military’s involvement in the transfer of women and oversight of brothels. Important evidence also comes from the testimony of victims. Although their stories are diverse and affected by the inconsistencies of memory, the aggregate record they offer is compelling and supported by official documents as well as by the accounts of soldiers and others.

Historians disagree over the precise number of “comfort women,” which will probably never be known for certain. Establishing sound estimates of victims is important. But ultimately, whether the numbers are judged to have been in the tens of thousands or the hundreds of thousands will not alter the fact of the exploitation carried out throughout the Japanese empire and its war zones.

Some historians also dispute how directly the Japanese military was involved, and whether women were coerced to become “comfort women.” Yet the evidence makes

clear that large numbers of women were held against their will and subjected to horrific brutality. Employing legalistic arguments focused on particular terms or isolated documents to challenge the victims’ testimony both misses the fundamental issue of their brutalization and ignores the larger context of the inhumane system that exploited them.

Like our colleagues in Japan, we believe that only careful weighing and contextual evaluation of every trace of the past can produce a just history. Such work must resist national and gender bias, and be free from government manipulation, censorship, and private intimidation. We defend the freedom of historical inquiry, and we call upon all governments to do the same.

Many countries still struggle to acknowledge past injustices. It took over forty years for the United States government to compensate Japanese-Americans for their internment during World War II. The promise of equality for African Americans was not realized in US law until a century after the abolition of slavery, and the reality of racism remains ingrained in American society. None of the imperial powers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including the United States, the European nations, and Japan, can claim to have sufficiently reckoned with their histories of racism, colonialism, and war, or with the suffering they inflicted on countless civilians around the world.

Japan today values the life and rights of every individual, including the most vulnerable. The Japanese government would not tolerate the exploitation of women in a system like the military “comfort stations” now, either overseas or at home. Even at the time, some officials protested on moral grounds. But the wartime regime compelled absolute sacrifice of the individual to serve the state, causing great suffering to the Japanese people themselves as well as to other Asians. No one should have to suffer such conditions again.

This year presents an opportunity for the government of Japan to show leadership by addressing Japan’s history of colonial rule and wartime aggression in both words and action. In his April address to the US Congress, Prime Minister Abe spoke of the universal value of human rights, of the importance of human security, and of facing the suffering that Japan caused other countries. We applaud these sentiments and urge the Prime Minister to act boldly on all of them.

The process of acknowledging past wrongs strengthens a democratic society and fosters cooperation among nations. Since the equal rights and dignity of women lie at the core of the “comfort women” issue, its resolution would be a historic step toward the equality of women and men in Japan, East Asia and the world.

In our classrooms, students from Japan, Korea, China and elsewhere discuss these difficult issues with mutual respect and probity. Their generation will live with the record of the past that we bequeath them. To help them build a world free of sexual violence and human trafficking, and to promote peace and friendship in Asia, we must leave as full and unbiased an accounting of past wrongs as possible.

SIGNED,

  • l  Daniel Aldrich, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University.
  • l  Jeffrey Alexander, Associate Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Parkside.
  • l  Anne Allison, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Duke University.
  • l  Marnie Anderson, Associate Professor of History, Smith College.
  • l  E. Taylor Atkins, Presidential Teaching Professor of History, Northern Illinois University.
  • l  Paul D. Barclay, Associate Professor of History and Asian Studies Program Chair, Lafayette College.
  • l  Jan Bardsley, Associate Professor of Asian Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
  • l  James R. Bartholomew, Professor, Department of History, The Ohio State University.
  • l  Brett de Bary, Professor, Asian Studies and Comparative Literature, Cornell University.
  • l  Michael Baskett, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Film and Media Studies, University of Kansas
  • l  Alan Baumler, Professor of History, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
  • l  Alexander R. Bay, Associate Professor, History Department, Chapman University.
  • l  Theodore C. Bestor, Professor of Social Anthropology, Harvard University.
  • l  Victoria Bestor, Director of the North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources.
  • l  Davinder Bhowmik, Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington.
  • l  Herbert Bix, Professor Emeritus of History and Sociology, Binghamton University.
  • l  Daniel Botsman, Professor of History, Yale University.
  • l  Michael Bourdaghs, Professor of Japanese Literature, East Asian Languages and

    Civilizations, University of Chicago.

  • l  Thomas Burkman, Research Professor of Asian Studies Emeritus, SUNY Buffalo.
  • l  Susan L. Burns, Associate Professor of History, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago.
  • l  Eric Cazdyn, Distinguished Professor of Aesthetics and Politics, Department of East Asian Studies & Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Toronto.
  • l  Parks M. Coble, Professor of History, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
  • l  Haruko Taya Cook, Instructor of Languages and Cultures, William Paterson

    University.

  • l  Theodore F. Cook, Professor of History, William Paterson University.
  • l  Bruce Cumings, Professor of History, University of Chicago.
  • l  Katarzyna Cwiertka, Professor of Modern Japanese Studies, Universiteit Leiden.
  • l  Charo D’Etcheverry, Associate Professor of Japanese Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • l  Eric Dinmore, Associate Professor of History, Hampden-Sydney College.
  • l  Lucia Dolce, Chair, Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions, University of

    London, SOAS.

  • l  Ronald P. Dore, Honorary Fellow, London School of Economics.
  • l  John W. Dower, Professor Emeritus of History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • l  Mark Driscoll, Professor of East Asian Studies, UNC, Chapel Hill.
  • l  Prasenjit Duara, Raffles Professor of Humanities, National University of Singapore.
  • l  Alexis Dudden, Professor of History, University of Connecticut.
  • l  Martin Dusinberre, Professor of Global History, University of Zürich.
  • l  Peter Duus, Professor of History (Emeritus), Stanford University.
  • l  Steve Ericson, Associate Professor of History, Dartmouth College.
  • l  Elyssa Faison, Associate Professor, University of Oklahoma.
  • l  Norma Field, Professor Emerita of East Asian Studies, University of Chicago.
  • l  W. Miles Fletcher, Professor of History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
  • l  Petrice R. Flowers, Associate Professor Political Science, University of Hawaii.
  • l  Joshua A. Fogel, Professor of History, York University, Toronto.
  • l  Sarah Frederick, Associate Professor of Japanese and Comparative Literature, Boston University.
  • l  Dennis J. Frost, Wen Chao Chen Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, Kalamazoo College.
  • l  Sabine Fruhstuck, Professor of Modern Japanese Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara.
  • l  James Fujii, Associate Professor, East Asian Languages and Literatures, University of California, Irvine.
  • l  Takashi Fujitani, Professor of History, University of Toronto.
  • l  Sheldon M. Garon, Professor of History and East Asian Studies, Princeton

    University.

  • l  Timothy S. George, Professor of History, University of Rhode Island.
  • l  Christopher Gerteis, Chair, Japan Research Centre, SOAS, University of London.
  • l  Carol Gluck, Professor of History, Columbia University.
  • l  Andrew Gordon, Professor of History, Harvard University.
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  • l  Harry Harootunian, Emeritus Professor of History, New York University; Adjunct Professor of Japanese History, Columbia University.
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  • l  Manfred Henningsen, Professor of Political Science, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
  • l  Christopher L. Hill, Assistant Professor of Japanese Literature, University of Michigan.
  • l  Katsuya Hirano, Associate Professor of History, UCLA.
  • l  David L. Howell, Professor of Japanese History, Harvard University.
  • l  Douglas Howland, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
  • l  James L. Huffman, H. Orth Hirt Professor of History Emeritus, Wittenberg University.
  • l  Janet Hunter, Saji Professor of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science.
  • l  Akira Iriye, Professor Emeritus, Harvard University.
  • l  Rebecca Jennison, Professor, Department of Humanities, Kyoto Seika University.
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  • l  John Junkerman, Documentary Filmmaker.
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  • l  Ken Kawashima, Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto.
  • l  William W. Kelly, Professor of Anthropology, Yale University.
  • l  James Ketelaar, Professor of History, University of Chicago.
  • l  R. Keller Kimbrough, Associate Professor, University of Colorado at Boulder.
  • l  Miriam Kingsberg, Assistant Professor of History, University of Colorado.
  • l  Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies and Professor of History, Temple

    University Japan.

  • l  Victor Koschmann, Professor of History, Cornell University.
  • l  Emi Koyama, Independent Scholar, Japan-U.S. Feminist Network for Decolonization (FeND).
  • l  Ellis S. Krauss, Professor Emeritus, University of California, San Diego.
  • l  Josef Kreiner, Professor Emeritus, Rheinische Freidrich-Wilhelms Universität Bonn.
  • l  Shigehisa Kuriyama, Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History, Harvard University.
  • l  Peter Kuznick, Professor of History and Director, Nuclear Studies Institute, American University.
  • l  Thomas Lamarre, James McGill Professor, East Asian Studies , Art History and Communications Studies, McGill University
  • l  Andrew Levidis, Fellow, Reischauer Institute, Harvard University.
  • l  Ilse Lenz, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Ruhr University Bochum, Germany.
  • l  Mark Lincicome, Associate Professor, Department of History, College of the Holy Cross.
  • l  Sepp Linhart, Professor Emeritus of Japanese Studies and Sociology, University of Vienna.
  • l  Yukio Lippit, Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University.
  • l  Angus Lockyer, Lecturer in the History of Japan, Department of History, SOAS,

    University of London.

  • l  Susan Orpett Long, Professor of Anthropology, John Carroll University.
  • l  David B. Lurie, Associate Professor of Japanese History and Literature, Columbia University.
  • l  Vera Mackie, Professor of Asian Studies, University of Wollongong.

l Wolfram Manzenreiter, Professor of Japanese Studies, University of Vienna.

  • l  William Marotti, Associate Professor of History, UCLA.
  • l  Y. Tak Matsusaka, Professor of History, Wellesley College.
  • l  Trent Maxey, Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Civilizations and History, Amherst College.
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    Amherst.

  • l  Yuki Miyamoto, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, DePaul University.
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  • l  Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Professor of Japanese History, Australian National University.
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  • l  Tetsuo Najita, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Chicago.
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    Portland State University.

  • l  Jordan Sand, Professor of History, Georgetown University.
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    Literature, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

  • l  Ethan Segal, Associate Professor of History, Michigan State University.
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  • l  Sayuri Guthrie Shimizu, Professor of History, Rice University.
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  • l  Patricia Sippel, Professor, Toyo Eiwa University.
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  • l  M. William Steele, Professor of History, International Christian University.
  • l  Brigitte Steger, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Studies, University of

    Cambridge.

  • l  Stefan Tanaka, Professor of Communication, University of California, San Diego.
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  • l  Ezra F. Vogel, Professor Emeritus, Harvard University.
  • l  Klaus Vollmer, Professor of Japanese Studies, LMU Munich University.
  • l  Anne Walthall, Professor Emerita of History, University of California, Irvine.
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  • l  Lori Watt, Associate Professor of History, Washington University in St. Louis.
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  • l  Samuel H. Yamashita, Henry E. Sheffield Professor of History, Pomona College.
  • l  Daqing Yang, Associate Professor, George Washington University.
  • l  Christine Yano, Professor of Anthropology, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
  • l  Marcia Yonemoto, Associate Professor of History, University of Colorado Boulder.
  • l  Lisa Yoneyama, Professor of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto.
  • l  Theodore Jun Yoo, Associate Professor of History, University of Hawaii.
  • l  Takashi Yoshida, Professor, Western Michigan University.
  • l  Louise Young, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • l  Eve Zimmerman, Barbara Morris Caspersen Associate Professor of Humanities & Associate Professor of Japanese, Wellesley University.
  • l  Reinhard Zöllner, Professor of Japanese and Korean Studies, University of Bonn. —

This statement emerged from an open forum held at the Association for Asian Studies annual meeting held in Chicago during March 2015, and from subsequent discussions on line among a wide range of Japan scholars. It represents the opinions only of those who have signed it and not of any organization or institution.

U.S House Resolution 121

H. RES. 121

In the House of Representatives, U. S.,

July 30, 2007
RESOLUTION

Whereas the Government of Japan, during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II, officially commissioned the acquisition of young women for the sole purpose of sexual servitude to its Imperial Armed Forces, who became known to the world as ianfu or comfort women;

Whereas the comfort women system of forced military prostitution by the Government of Japan, considered unprecedented in its cruelty and magnitude, included gang rape, forced abortions, humiliation, and sexual violence resulting in mutilation, death, or eventual suicide in one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century;

Whereas some new textbooks used in Japanese schools seek to downplay the comfort women tragedy and other Japanese war crimes during World War II;

Whereas Japanese public and private officials have recently expressed a desire to dilute or rescind the 1993 statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the comfort women, which expressed the Government’s sincere apologies and remorse for their ordeal;

Whereas the Government of Japan did sign the 1921 International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children and supported the 2000 United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security which recognized the unique impact on women of armed conflict;

Whereas the House of Representatives commends Japan’s efforts to promote human security, human rights, democratic values, and rule of law, as well as for being a supporter of Security Council Resolution 1325;

Whereas the United States-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of United States security interests in Asia and the Pacific and is fundamental to regional stability and prosperity;

Whereas, despite the changes in the post-cold war strategic landscape, the United States-Japan alliance continues to be based on shared vital interests and values in the Asia-Pacific region, including the preservation and promotion of political and economic freedoms, support for human rights and democratic institutions, and the securing of prosperity for the people of both countries and the international community;

Whereas the House of Representatives commends those Japanese officials and private citizens whose hard work and compassion resulted in the establishment in 1995 of Japan’s private Asian Women’s Fund;

Whereas the Asian Women’s Fund has raised $5,700,000 to extend atonement from the Japanese people to the comfort women; and

Whereas the mandate of the Asian Women’s Fund, a government-initiated and largely government-funded private foundation whose purpose was the carrying out of programs and projects with the aim of atonement for the maltreatment and suffering of the comfort women, came to an end on March 31, 2007, and the Fund has been disbanded as of that date: Now, therefore, be it

That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of Japan—
(1)should formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as comfort women, during its colonial and wartime occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of World War II;
(2)would help to resolve recurring questions about the sincerity and status of prior statements if the Prime Minister of Japan were to make such an apology as a public statement in his official capacity;
(3)should clearly and publicly refute any claims that the sexual enslavement and trafficking of the comfort women for the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces never occurred; and
(4)should educate current and future generations about this horrible crime while following the recommendations of the international community with respect to the comfort women.
Clerk.

Pope-greets-South-Korean-comfort-women-forced-sex-slavery.

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Pope meets former comfort women at the mass in Seoul, S.Korea
Pope meets former comfort women at the mass in Seoul, S.Korea

Pope Francis greeted women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II during a Mass at the end of his tour in South Korea.
In a poignant moment at the start of the service, Francis bent down and greeted seven women, many sitting in wheelchairs, who are pushing for a new apology and compensation for their ordeals.
One gave him a pin of a butterfly – a symbol of these ‘comfort women’s’ plight – which he immediately pinned to his vestments and wore throughout the Mass.
Francis said in his homily that reconciliation can be brought about only by forgiveness, even if it seems ‘impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant.’
Asking them to forgive: Pope Francis greets women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II prior to the start of a Mass of reconciliation at Seoul’s main cathedral

Asking them to forgive: Pope Francis greets women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II prior to the start of a Mass of reconciliation at Seoul’s main cathedral
Poignant: At the start of the service, Francis bent down and greeted seven women, many sitting in wheelchairs, who are pushing for a new apology and compensation from Japan for their ordeals

Poignant: At the start of the service, Francis bent down and greeted seven women, many sitting in wheelchairs, who are pushing for a new apology and compensation from Japan for their ordeals
‘Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need and for an ever-greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people,’ he said.
The Pope received the butterfly pin from Kim Bok-dong, one of the ‘comfort women’ who attended his Mass.
These elderly South Koreans, many of whom regularly appear at rallies and other high-profile events, are looking for greater global attention as they push Japan to apologise.

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In an interview with The Associated Press before the Mass, another one of the women, Lee Yong-soo, who often speaks to the media, said she hoped the meeting would provide some solace for the pain she and others still feel more than seven decades after they were violated.
Francis wrapped up his first trip to Asia today by also challenging Koreans – from the North and the South – to reject the ‘mindset of suspicion and confrontation’ that clouds their relations and find new ways to forge peace on the war-divided peninsula.
One woman gave him a pin of a butterfly – a symbol of these ‘comfort women’s’ plight – which he immediately pinned to his vestments and wore throughout the Mass

One woman gave him a pin of a butterfly – a symbol of these ‘comfort women’s’ plight – which he immediately pinned to his vestments and wore throughout the Mass

PLIGHT OF THE ‘COMFORT WOMEN’
Historians say 20,000 to 200,000 women from across Asia, many of them Koreans, were forced to provide sex to Japan’s front-line soldiers.
Japanese nationalists contend that the so-called ‘comfort women’ in wartime brothels were voluntary prostitutes, not sex slaves, and that Japan has been unfairly criticised for a practice they say is common in any country at war.
Many South Korean women have demanded a full apology accompanied by official government compensation.
In 1995, Japan provided through a private fund 2million yen ($20,000) each to about 280 women in the Philippines, Taiwan and South Korea and funded nursing homes and medical assistance for Indonesian and former Dutch sex slaves.
But some survivors refused the cash because it did not come directly from the government.
Repeated wavering since the apology among senior right-wing politicians has contributed to a feeling in South Korea that Japan is in denial and not sufficiently remorseful.
Before boarding a plane back to Rome, the Pope held a Mass of reconciliation at Seoul’s main cathedral, attended by South Korean President Park Geun-hye as well as some North Korean defectors.
It was the final event of a five-day trip that confirmed the importance of Asia for this papacy and for the Catholic Church as a whole, given the church is young and growing there, while it is withering in traditionally Christian lands in Europe.
Francis’s plea for peace came as the United States and South Korea started a joint military drill that North Korea warned would result in a ‘merciless pre-emptive strike’ against the allies.
During his trip, the Pope reached out to China, North Korea and a host of other countries that have no relations with the Holy See.
The Pope will visit the Philippines in January, along with Sri Lanka.

US Congressman says “America has Key Role to play in Comfort Women Issue”

 

 

FILE - Former comfort women who served the Japanese Army as sexual slaves during World War II, at a rally before Korean Liberation Day.

FILE – Former comfort women who served the Japanese Army as sexual slaves during World War II, at a rally before Korean Liberation Day.

A senior U.S. lawmaker says the United States has a key role to play in resolving the systematic use of sexual slaves by the Japanese army before and during the World War II.

In a telephone interview with the VOA Korean service last weekend, U.S. Representative Michael Honda (D-CA) emphasized the role Washington can play in resolving the issue of the so-called “comfort women.”

“The U.S. has strong democratic and economic partnerships with both [South] Korea and Japan,” said the Representative of the 17th Congressional District of California. He added the American government is able to say if one or the other is wrong.

Congressman Honda said Washington can set the example of mature democracy and serve as a facilitator between its two biggest allies in Northeast Asia.

“Our country has demonstrated that you can apologize very clearly, formally, and unambiguously; and make things right,” explained the longtime politician.

Honda was referring to the U.S. government apologizing to the Japanese-Americans for interning their ancestors during the World War II to concentration camps and to the Chinese-Americans for anti-Chinese immigration laws.

Regarding bilateral talks between Seoul and Tokyo, Honda said there should be “very strong and clear benchmarks” for negotiations on the “comfort women” issue  The two neighbors are engaging in talks on the wartime crimes.

Honda stressed the importance of timely agreement on the issue, saying the victims are passing away. “Right now, they are the living, breathing example of truth, justice, and reconciliation,” he said. 

The euphemism “comfort women” refers to up to 200,000 girls and women forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army. The “comfort stations” were located in 11 nations, including Japan, China, and Indonesia.

It’s estimated the Japanese forced about 200,000 women to provide sexual services to its soldiers before and during World War II.  Most came from Korea, though many were from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Honda says the appropriate action for Tokyo would be “to accept the historical responsibility they have to formally apologize unambiguously – and pass legislation to the Diet and include these facts in their textbooks for the youngsters.

”Earlier this year, President Obama called the issue of comfort women a “terrible, egregious violation of human rights.”