U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has reportedly told officials to refer to the women drafted as prostitutes for the Japanese military during World War II as "enforced sex slaves" rather than by the euphemism "comfort women." In response, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba claimed in the Diet on Tuesday that the term is "incorrect."
In 1996, the UN Human Rights Commission passed a resolution against violence against women, which says that Japan's victims were "sex slaves." The International Labor Organization in a 1996 report also said Japan violated ILO Convention No. 29 that bans forced labor and slavery. In 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on the Japanese government to make a formal apology and take responsibility for forcing these women to serve as sex slaves.
The international community is unanimous in the belief that Japan enslaved Korean, Chinese, Southeast Asian and Dutch women who were living in Indonesia, that this was a crime against humanity, and that the term "sex slaves" is wholly appropriate in describing them. Yet Japanese diplomats have been told by their government to lobby to remove memorials for these women set up in the U.S., while some thoughtless Japanese people have tried to destroy these monuments designed to remind future generations of the atrocities.
The Korean government uses the long-winded phrase "victims who served as comfort women for Japanese soldiers" in official documents, chiefly for fear of dishonoring the women. But the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan on Wednesday welcomed Clinton's decision to stop using the Japanese euphemism "comfort women" and said her decision "reflects [their] thoughts."
If Japan thinks it can hide the atrocities it committed during World War II by resorting to euphemisms, it is making a huge mistake. It would only be right for Korea to use terms in its official documents that call the crimes Japan has committed by their proper name.