Saturday, October 19, 2013

Not So Comfort Women by Erick San Juan

"Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few."
-------------Sir Winston Churchill----------

And this ‘few’ comfort women still seeking justice and acknowledgement for the wrongdoing inflicted on them from 1910 to 1945 by the Japanese soldiers, they are the victims of war crimes of the Second World War.

For the few comfort women like the mother of my former nanny, who are still alive today, with the average age of 88 are still fighting, hoping that justice will be given to them before they die.

From the detailed article by C. Sarah Soh, Japan's Responsibility Toward Comfort Women Survivors – “The euphemism "comfort women" (ianfu) was coined by imperial Japan to refer to young females of various ethnic and national backgrounds and social circumstances who were forced to offer sexual services to the Japanese troops before and during the Second World War. Some were minors sold into brothels; others were deceptively recruited by middlemen; still others were forcibly abducted. Estimates of the number of comfort women range between 50,000 and 200,000. It is believed that most were Korean.

The question of the wartime forced recruitment of Korean women as ianfu was first raised in the Japanese National Diet in June 1990 as a result of the women's movement in South Korea. The first class-action suit by Korean ex-comfort women was filed against the Japanese government in December 1991, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. Since 1992, Korean and Japanese women leaders, as well as ex-comfort women and legal experts, have persuaded international organizations, including the United Nations, to conduct a series of hearings and formal investigations into the matter. In her 1998 U.N. report on contemporary forms of slavery, Gay McDougall recommended among other things that Japan pay state compensation to the "individual `comfort women'" and prosecute all those responsible for the comfort system who remain
alive today.”

And in the latest appeal (October 11) this year by South Korea’s gender equality and family minister at the human rights panel of the United Nations General Assembly, the minister has raised the issue of women used as sex slaves by the wartime Japanese military.

Although Minister Cho Yoon-sun did not specifically name Japan, she called on “the responsible government” to apologize and take responsible measures in her speech at the assembly’s Third Committee, which oversees social and humanitarian affairs.

With the advancement of women on the committee’s agenda, Cho devoted a substantial portion of her address to the issue of the “comfort women,” as Japan euphemistically refers to its wartime sex slaves.

This is the third year in a row that South Korea has taken up the issue at the committee. Last year, however, it was only briefly cited.

Cho said more than 100,000 women were forced to work at brothels run by the Imperial Japanese military but “only 56 still live amongst us.”

Minister Cho added that the issue of comfort women is not a matter of the past, it is now an urgent task for the international community to give their attention to and support in order to put this problem behind us.
But on the other side, with the Japanese government, the increasingly ultra-nationalistic statements are proclaimed not by Japanese marginal politicians, but by members of the ruling establishment. These include a comment of the chairman of the political council of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party S.Takaiti, who called  into question the appropriateness of an official apology of T. Murayama administration in 1995, which acknowledged the Japan’s entry into the path of war was a political mistake and expressed remorse and apologized for the suffering brought by Japanese aggression to the residents of many Asian countries.

According to Takaiti, Japan’s action were justified at that time because it “fought for its own survival.” In addition, the head of political council of the Liberal Democratic Party expressed solidarity with the previous thesis of Prime Minister Abe, that the use of term “aggression” in the context of T.Murayama’s statement seems inappropriate, as there is no consensus about its interpretation in the scientific community.

After the remarks about the feasible use of the term “aggression” in T.Murayama’s statement, the Japanese Prime Minister continued playing with the notions and said that he would also reject to use the term “invasion” with regard to Japan.

Another shocking statement was done by the leader of the Renaissance Party of Japanese parliament -T. Hashimoto, who believes that the institutions of “comfort women” was a “natural phenomenon” and was necessary for the “rest of Japanese soldiers between battles.”  Previously. Hashimoto notices that there was no evidence that “comfort women” were concussed by force or threat to prostitution.

In line with the above statements, a suggestion is proposed by the head of the Japanese Cabinet of Ministers E.Sua in January this year “to conduct an expert assessment, whether his predecessor E.Kano in 1993 had a right to apologize for the “immeasurable pain”, which hurt women from neighboring Asian countries, being sex slaves”.

Attempts of some high-ranking Japanese politicians to deny obvious facts of the past, which cannot be understood even in modern Germany having similar shameful pages in its history, should not be left without an adequate response. We need to continue working consistently to achieve sincere and unconditional apologies from Japan for the sins of its past. Time is running out on the remaining victims of war atrocities. The Japanese government must act fast. The shameful past done by their military will always haunt them even in the generations to come.

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