May 07, 2015 10:18
A group of 187 leading international historians are urging Japan to admit and apologize for forcing women to serve as sex slaves for its troops during World War II.
In an open letter to the Chosun Ilbo on Wednesday, the historians said Japan's problematic interpretation of its history poses "obstacles" to anyone seeking to congratulate the nation on its accomplishments since the end of the war.
They added that "denying or trivializing" the mobilization of sex slaves is "unacceptable."
"Among the many instances of wartime sexual violence and military prostitution in the 20th 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," the historians wrote.
"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."
The authors include Ezra Vogel of Harvard University, Pulitzer Prize winner Herbert Bix of Binghamton University, John Dower of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bruce Cummings of the University of Chicago, and 33 Japanese scholars.
In February, 20 U.S. historians also issued a statement criticizing Japan's request to revise American school texts, but the latest statement carries far more weight.
The letter is expected to deal a blow to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been patting himself on the back for wrapping up a successful trip to Washington D.C.
The historians said Tokyo's excuses to discredit the testimonies of the former sex slaves or the total figures of victimized women will not be able to hide the atrocities imperial Japan committed during World War II.
Prof. Alexis Dudden of the University of Connecticut said the letter was mailed directly to Abe's residence and said the scholars hope he will take it to heart.
Abe apparently plans to break with tradition and not apologize for Japan's wartime atrocities in his speech on Aug. 15 to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Whether the intensifying global outcry will change his revisionist stance, which is mainly intended to shore up domestic votes, remains to be seen.
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