‘Balsamina:Touch-Me-Not’ is now at the Kindle book store. You can click the bottom link to have a free give away download. Please kindly share the link so the voice of surviving comfort women can reach broader audience over the world. Thank you.
Official movie website: http://www.guihyang.com
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/makingguihyang
The film ‘Spirits’ Homecoming’ is based on the true story of Kang Il-chul , who was forced to become sex slave for the Imperial Japanese Army during the 1940s.
Born in 1928, she was taken by force to Comfort Stations by Japanese army in 1943, when she was only sixteen years old. This movie portrays a teenage girl’s struggle who was stripped of her human rights and dignity in the name of war and the militarism.
Unlike Germany, modern day Japan government has not made amends for their war crimes of the past. Rather, the Rightist faction, which influences great control over Japanese politics insists on unacceptable arguments as they deny the forced conscription of Comfort Women along with other historically known war crime facts.
The film does not seek simply to criticize the Japanese government nor does it seek to provide shallow comfort for the victims. Instead it aims to highlight the devastation and tragedy of the history caused by the military of Imperial Japan, and to heartily send out the message that this cannot be repeated. So, we dare say that this is not the story of the ‘past’ but of the ‘future’ for all. Furthermore, this is a ‘healing movie’ that focuses on alleviating the pain of the past.
Today, only a small number of victims remain alive. It is imperative that their stories be recorded and told to the world.
The Reason to Never Forget – origins of our tale
In the winter of 2002, when Director Cho visited ‘The House of Sharing’ to perform as a traditional Korean drummer for ‘Japanese Military Comfort Women’ victims who reside there, he met Kang Il-chul.
Ms. Kang, one of the Comfort Women victims, born in 1928, was only 16 when she was forcefully ‘recruited’ by a Japanese officer. She was taken to a Comfort Station in Mundanjiang, China, and was forced to work as a ‘sex slave’ for Japanese Soldiers.
Towards the end of war, after years of indescribable torment and abuse, she was diagnosed with typhoid. She was then, transferred outside the army camp, along with other girls who were also considered ‘useless’, to be thrown into a fire pit for disposal.
Right before she was thrown into the fire pit, she was able to make a dramatic escape thanks to a surprise attack from the Korean Independence Army at the time. From then on, she dwelled in China, with no way to go home but longing to return. In 1998, after years of waiting she was able to come home, and decided to reside in ‘the House of Sharing’ along with other victims.
In 2001, during an art psychotherapy conducted at ‘the House of Sharing’, she drew ‘Burning Virgins’ which depicts her own experience. After encountering her picture, Director Cho, shocked by the horrible truth and tragedy young girls’ lives trampled brutally, grieved deeply and wrote a scenario which gave life to the movie – Spirits’ Homecoming.
From the ‘Guihyang’, official site.
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- l Helen Hardacre, Professor of Religions and Society, Harvard University.
- l Harry Harootunian, Emeritus Professor of History, New York University; Adjunct Professor of Japanese History, Columbia University.
- l Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Professor of History, University of California at Santa Barbara.
- l Akiko Hashimoto, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Pittsburgh.
- l Sally A. Hastings, Associate Professor of History, Purdue University.
- l Tom Havens, Professor of History, Northeastern University.
- l Kenji Hayao, Associate Professor, Political Science Department, Boston College.
- l Laura Hein, Professor of History, Northwestern University.
- l Robert Hellyer, Associate Professor of History, Wake Forest College.
- 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.
- l William Johnston, Professor of History, Wesleyan University.
- l John Junkerman, Documentary Filmmaker.
- l Ikumi Kaminishi, Associate Professor of Art and Art History, Tufts University.
- 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
- 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.
- l James L. McClain Professor of History, Brown University.
- l Gavan McCormack, Professor Emeritus of History, Australian National University.
- l Melissa McCormick, Professor, Harvard University.
- l David McNeill, Journalist and Professor, Sophia University.
- l Mark Metzler, Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin.
- l Ian J. Miller, Professor of History, Harvard University.
- l Laura Miller, Ei’ichi Shibusawa-Seigo Arai Endowed Professor of Japanese Studies, University of Missouri-St. Louis.
- l Janis Mimura, Associate Professor, State University of New York, Stony Brook.
- l Richard H. Minear, Professor of History (Emeritus), University of Massachusetts
- l Yuki Miyamoto, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, DePaul University.
- l Barbara Molony, Professor of History, Santa Clara University.
- l Yumi Moon, Associate Professor of History, Stanford.
- l Aaron Moore, Lecturer in East Asian History, The University of Manchester.
- l Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Professor of Japanese History, Australian National University.
- l Aurelia George Mulgan, Professor of Japanese Politics, University of New South Wales.
- l R. Taggart Murphy, Professor, International Political Economy, University of Tsukuba, Tokyo Campus.
- l Tetsuo Najita, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Chicago.
- l Miri Nakamura, Associate Professor of Japanese Literature, College of East Asian Studies, Wesleyan University.
- l John Nathan, Takashima Professor of Japanese Cultural Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara.
- l Christopher Nelson, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- l Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Editor, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.
- l Markus Nornes, Professor of Asian Cinema, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
- l David Tobaru Obermiller, Associate Professor, Department of History & Japanese Studies Program, Gustavus Adolphus College.
- l Eiko Otake, Visiting artist, Wesleyan University.
- l Simon Partner, Professor of History, Duke University.
- l T.J. Pempel, Jack M. Forcey Professor of Political Science for Study of East Asian Politics, University of California, Berkeley.
- l Matthew Penney, Associate Professor, Concordia University.
- l Samuel E. Perry, Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, Brown University.
- l Catherine Phipps, Associate Professor, University of Memphis
- l Leslie Pincus, Associate Professor of History, University of Michigan.
- l Morgan Pitelka, Associate Professor and Director of the Carolina Asia Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
- l Janet Poole, Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto.
- l Roger Pulvers, Author and Translator, Sydney, Australia.
- l Steve Rabson, Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, Brown University.
- l Fabio Rambelli, Chair, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies and Professor of Japanese Religions and Cultural History, University of California, Santa Barbara.
- l Mark Ravina, Professor of History, Emory University.
- l Steffi Richter, Professor of East Asian Studies, Universität Leipzig.
- l Luke Roberts, Professor of History, University of California Santa Barbara.
- l Jennifer Robertson, Professor of Anthropology and History of Art, University of Michigan.
- l Jay Rubin, Professor Emeritus, Harvard University.
- l Ken Ruoff, Professor of History and Director of the Center for Japanese Studies,
Portland State University.
- l Jordan Sand, Professor of History, Georgetown University.
- l Wesley Sasaki-Uemura, Associate Professor of Japanese History, University of Utah.
- l Ellen Schattschneider, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Brandeis University.
- l Andre Schmid, Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto.
- l Amanda C. Seaman, Associate Professor of Japanese and Director of Comparative
Literature, University of Massachusetts Amherst.
- l Ethan Segal, Associate Professor of History, Michigan State University.
- l Wolfgang Seifert, Professor Emeritus of Japanese Studies, University of Heidelberg.
- l Mark Selden, Senior Research Associate, Cornell University; Editor, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.
- l Franziska Seraphim, Associate Professor of History, Boston College.
- l Sayuri Guthrie Shimizu, Professor of History, Rice University.
- l Eiko Maruko Siniawer, Associate Professor of History, Williams College.
- l Patricia Sippel, Professor, Toyo Eiwa University.
- l Richard Smethurst, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Pittsburgh.
- l Kerry Smith, Associate Professor of History, Brown University.
- l Daniel Sneider, Associate Director for Research, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University.
- l M. William Steele, Professor of History, International Christian University.
- l Brigitte Steger, Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Studies, University of
- l Stefan Tanaka, Professor of Communication, University of California, San Diego.
- l Alan Tansman, Professor of Japanese Literature, University of California Berkeley.
- l Sarah Thal, Associate Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- l Michael F. Thies, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, UCLA
- l Mark Tilton, Associate Professor of Political Science, Purdue University.
- l Julia Adeney Thomas, Associate Professor of History, University of Notre Dame.
- l John Whittier Treat, Emeritus Professor, Yale University; Professor, Ewha Womans University.
- l Hitomi Tonomura, Professor of History, University of Michigan
- l Jun Uchida, Associate Professor of History, Stanford University.
- l J. Keith Vincent, Associate Professor of Japanese and Comparative Literature, Boston University.
- l Stephen Vlastos, Professor of History, University of Iowa.
- 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.
- l Max Ward, Assistant Professor of History, Middlebury College.
- l Lori Watt, Associate Professor of History, Washington University in St. Louis.
- l Gennifer Weisenfeld, Professor, Duke University.
- l Michael Wert, Associate Professor, Marquette University.
- l Kären Wigen, Professor of History, Stanford University.
- l Tomomi Yamaguchi, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Montana State University.
- 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.
The surviving comfort women, residing at the House of Sharing in Korea, thank Mr.Honda for his sincere support on the issue.
They also endorse the book, ‘Touch-Me-Not’, and hope the book will be widely read and recognized with English speaking audiences so their truthful story can be heard world wide.
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is calling on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to “squarely face history” during his scheduled visit to the United States next week.
Abe on Tuesday sent a token plant to a Japanese war shrine in a ritual cheered by the country’s nationalists but condemned by neighboring nation’s like South Korea and China, which view the move as an aggressive denial of atrocities committed by the Japanese during World War II.
In a letter sent Thursday to Kenichiro Sasae, Japan’s ambassador to the United States, the House lawmakers note that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, and are urging Abe to “lay the foundation for healing and humble reconciliation by addressing the historical issues.”
“[W]e fervently hope Prime Minister Abe will take advantage of this auspicious milestone during his visit to Washington to enhance Japan’s relationships with its neighbors through a vision of long overdue healing and reconciliation which will contribute to future-oriented cooperation,” the lawmakers wrote.
Spearheaded by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), former head of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the letter is endorsed by 24 other lawmakers, including Reps. Edward Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), head of the Democrats’ messaging arm; Blake Farenthold (R-Texas); and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Abe has long-been criticized for not going far enough in apologizing for Japan’s activities during the Second World War, particularly the use of “comfort women” from neighboring countries who were forced to service the Japanese troops.
This week’s gift, an evergreen plant, from Abe to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine has only furthered those criticisms. The shrine is a memorial to the Japanese troops who died in the war, but also includes military officers and political officials later found guilty of war crimes.
Attempting to make amends, Abe has signaled that he’ll visit the World War II memorial on the National Mall during next week’s visit to Washington. The House lawmakers, though, suggested they also want him to address the thorny historical issues during his speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday – a speech that comes amid a high-stakes congressional debate over trade deals with Japan and other Asian nations.
“We are at a critical juncture in America’s rebalance to Asia,” the lawmakers wrote, “and we firmly believe that enhanced cooperation between the United States, Japan, and Korea will serve as a linchpin of peace and prosperity throughout the Asia-Pacific region and the broader global community.”
The U.S. ambassador to Seoul said Thursday Japan’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II is “a grave human rights violation,” expressing hope for Tokyo to take steps to ease the pains of victims.
Sung Kim made the remarks at a forum hosted by the Kwanhun Club, a senior journalists’ association, in Seoul, echoing Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se’s criticism the previous day in Geneva of Japan’s attempts to deny its wartime atrocities.
“Yes, I agree (with Yun),” Kim said. “The comfort women issue, or the sex slavery issue, is a grave human rights violation.”
Historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were coerced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during World War II. Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910-45.
Tokyo, however, has been trying to whitewash its history of the sexual atrocities, with the Shinzo Abe government vowing to re-examine a 1993 statement where the country acknowledged and apologized for its war crimes.
Stressing his own and his country’s understanding of “the pains of the surviving women,” the U.S. diplomat said, “We very much hope that the Japanese leadership addresses this important issue in a way that eases the pain of the victims.”
The soured Seoul-Tokyo relations “are not only bad for the two countries but harm the U.S. interests and the peace and stability of the whole region,” Kim said.
While guarding against any “mediating role” by the U.S., he said Washington can “encourage the leadership of the two countries to address the issue in a way that satisfies concerns and eases pain.”
“We very much hope that we can see some positive momentum in the relations between South Korea and Japan.”
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun delivered a tough message to Japan in his speech at the 25th regular session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, saying Japan has shown an attitude of “affronting humanity and disregarding the historical truth” and “challenging recommendations to Japan by U.N. mechanisms” by not repenting for its past behaviors.
Yun said taking the international stage to raise the comfort women issue was to raise awareness around the world and seek solutions to these “universal human rights issues.”
Asked about ways to resolve the North Korean nuclear weapons program, the U.S. diplomat said he believes that the six-party talks “are still a useful forum” and stressed Washington’s will to resume the stalled meeting.
The multilateral talks, which involve both Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia, have been dormant since late 2008.
“The North Korean nuclear issue is still very much at the top of the foreign policy of the U.S.,” the ambassador said. “People often equate lack of progress with lack of interests in Washington. That’s not the case at all in this case.”
Pointing to current circumstances as a reason for its “prudent” approach, he said the U.S. “will continue to work very hard with South Korea and China to try to come up with the resumption of the talks” with a goal to make “a serious lasting progress” in the denuclearization matter.
Especially following the stunning execution of leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle and No. 2 man, Jang Song-thaek, political uncertainty and instability in the reclusive country have grown, according to watchers.
“Many questions and many answers exist about the situation in North Korea. This is why it is so critical, so important for us to continue to maintain the strongest possible deterrent capability so that we will be prepared for whatever happens in North Korea,” he said.
GENEVA–South Korea’s foreign minister for the first time has raised the dispute with Japan over “comfort women” at a United Nations forum, calling the wartime system of sexual enslavement a “universal human rights issue.”
In a keynote address at the U.N. Human Rights Council on March 5, Yun Byung-se also lambasted recent moves by political leaders in Japan who want to revise a landmark 1993 government statement of apology to former comfort women.
Japan’s attitude “is an affront to humanity and disregards the historical truth,” he said.
The 1993 statement, issued in the name of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, acknowledged the involvement of the Imperial Japanese Army in the recruitment of women who were forced to provide sex to Japanese wartime troops.
Yun also criticized recent remarks by Yoshitaka Sakurada, the senior vice minister of education, who openly supported moves to review the 1993 apology.
According to the South Korean government, it was the first time for its foreign minister to raise the comfort women issue at the UNHRC.
Yun emphasized that the international community has been working hard to put an end to sexual violence in armed conflicts since the Rwanda genocide and the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. He said that “without repenting the past wrong-doings, a brighter future will not be secured.”
Yun also quoted from the testimony of a former Dutch comfort woman, emphasizing that it is not just a problem between South Korea and Japan.
He also demanded that the Japanese government take responsibility and educate current and future generations with regard to the comfort women issue.
Yun said that South Korea and Japan, which share the same values and interests, should be able to cooperate to secure peace and stability in Northeast Asia.