Abe and the Comfort Women

      March 06, 2007 08:03

      Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a parliamentary panel that Japan will not issue an apology for forcing women to act as sex slaves for its soldiers during World War II, since a proposed U.S. resolution asking Japan to formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility for the acts was full of “errors.” He is saying that the testimonies offered by former sex slaves from Asia and Europe during a recent hearing at the U.S. House of Representatives failed to provide evidence of forced mobilization. Last Thursday, Abe said he believes there was no evidence showing Japan had forced women into sexual slavery, as acknowledged in an apology in 1993 by Japan’s then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.

      The Kono statement in August 1993 said the so-called “comfort centers” or brothels housing the sex slaves were set up by the Japanese military. He said the mobilization of women to serve as sex slaves were done by private contractors at the request of the military, but many of those cases involved deception and coercion, with direct involvement by the government. This was an official acknowledgement of government participation. While Abe said he “stood by” the 1993 apology, he still claims he cannot acknowledge the Japanese government’s direct responsibility.

      Under the organized supervision of the Japanese government, the Japanese military, police and other branches forcibly rounded up women to serve as sex slaves, and records of this activity were destroyed by order of Japan’s Interior Ministry immediately after the country’s defeat in World War II. Many Japanese officials have revealed this in several testimonies. The best-known testimony proving Tokyo’s role in forcibly mobilizing sex slaves comes from Yoshida Seiji, who was in charge of drafting women in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula from 1943 to August of 1945. His testimony, which was published in an interview with a newspaper in 1991, raised a furor and led to the Kono apology.

      Abe claims testimony including Yoshida’s was concocted. But women not just from Korea but from 11 countries including China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia stood before an international civil court in Tokyo in 2000 and offered vivid accounts of their ordeal after being dragged away by Japanese soldiers, police and other officials. Last month, in the hearing at the U.S. House of Representatives, a Dutch woman gave the same testimony. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, International Labor Organization and other international agencies investigated the atrocity and issued several reports. World War II documents housed in the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration contain accounts gathered from sex slaves who were arrested in China and Southeast Asia. Abe is choosing to ignore these historical facts that have been unearthed over decades.

      In an angry response, Abe accused one lawmaker who criticized his comment on Monday of demeaning Japan. But his own crass views demean Asia and are as frightening as the view of Imperial Japan when it invaded Asian neighbors 100 years ago and the view Japanese officials had 70 years ago, when they dragged Asian women off to the battle fields to serve as sex slaves for soldiers.
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