From the January-February 2016 issue of News & Letters
So-called “comfort women”—girls and women from countries Japan occupied in World War II—were forced by the Imperial Japanese Military to work as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers. Korean, Chinese, Filipina and other Southeast Asian women and girls were raped, forced into prostitution and sexual slavery. On Dec. 28, seven decades after the end of World War II, Japan and South Korea came to an agreement on compensating the surviving rape victims, but excluded them from contributing to the decision. The comfort women deserve so much more than this sham Agreement on the Military Sexual Slavery Issue.
The agreement reached by Prime Minister Abe and South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, designated final and irreversible by them, says that the Japanese government feels responsible for its military’s committing sexual slavery and that Abe must apologize as Japan’s representative. But the apology was made by a diplomatic representative, not Abe, who earlier had infuriated the comfort women by dismissing them as prostitutes.
South Korea will create a foundation to provide funding for the “comfort” women of $8.3 million in reparations from Japan. Once that funding is paid out by Japan, South Korea alone will run the foundation. The funds are for the care of the surviving victims of Japan’s sexual slavery but, incredibly, none of the money will go directly to the victims.
The Agreement falls short. There are no preventive initiatives, including truth-seeking and the teaching of history. South Korea is even considering Japan’s demand for the removal of the statue of the “comfort” woman in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul—supposedly to maintain the dignity of the Japanese Embassy. For the same reason, South Korea has agreed to limit its criticism against the government of Japan internationally.
Following are the, very principled, demands of the comfort women:
1. Full acknowledgment of the military sexual slavery implemented by the Imperial Armed Forces of Japan between 1932 and 1945.
2. Thorough and complete investigation to fully chronicle the scope of the crime.
3. Formal apology from the National Assembly (Diet) of Japan.
4. Legal and full reparations to all victims.
5. Prosecution of the criminals responsible for the crime.
6. Full and ongoing education through proper recording and acknowledgment in textbooks and history books in Japan.
7. Building of memorials and museums to commemorate the victims and preserve the history of sexual slavery by the Japanese Military.
While the U.S. government supports this Agreement in hopes that Japan and South Korea can counter-balance China, the surviving women and their supporters are more committed than ever to see that Japan actually be held responsible for its military sexual slavery.