The People Behind the 'Comfort Women' Resolution

      August 02, 2007 11:12

      The person who played the biggest role in the passage Tuesday of the "comfort women" resolution by the U.S. House of Representatives is Mike Honda, a third-generation Japanese American. In January, Honda submitted a proposal for the resolution, which calls on the Japanese government to acknowledge and formally apologize for the forced mobilization of women to serve as sex slaves to Japanese soldiers during World War II. At that time, he was bombarded by criticism from Japanese people who accused him of trying to shame Japan on U.S. soil. A moderator of one Japanese TV program questioned how he could have done such a thing considering his Japanese lineage. But Honda was unfazed, replying that an apology and reconciliation by Tokyo would not diminish its stature. It would actually strengthen relations with Korea and China, should they be satisfied with Japan's efforts.

      After succeeding in the passage of the resolution, Honda gave credit to former Representative Lane Evans and to Korean Americans. Since 1999, Evans had proposed the comfort women resolution three times, but failed each time due to Japanese government lobbying. He retired last year. Even as he was battling Parkinson's disease, he encouraged Koreans by vowing to continue efforts to pass the resolution. The Korean American community also played a key role. A group fighting for the rights of the former sex slaves, the Korean American Voter's Council in New York and New Jersey and other groups visited the House of Representatives to convince lawmakers and their aides, while Korean-American junior and senior high school students sent donations.

      Honda spent 14 months in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. Following a Senate resolution in 1988, then U.S. President Ronald Reagan made a public apology for their internment. Honda said true reconciliation can only happen after repentance. He added that the passage of the resolution was not an end but a beginning. Honda is teaching the people of his ancestral home that the atrocities involving sex slaves cannot be resolved unless Japan accepts its responsibility.

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