Accept responsibility nowA hearing for victims who were sexually enslaved by the Japanese during World War II was held yesterday before the U.S. foreign affairs subcommittee on Asia. This was the first hearing of its kind in the history of the U.S. Senate. The appearance of Jan Ruff-O’Herne, a Dutch woman who was a so-called comfort woman, along with two Korean victims at the hearing made it clear that concern about war sex slaves is not limited to the Asian region. In light of the abuse of women and human rights violations that take place even now around the world, the issue of comfort women is not an issue of the past.
This hearing is the first step to passing a resolution on comfort women that was submitted to Congress last month.
Similar resolutions were submitted as many as six times between 1997 and last year, but each one fell apart due to Japan’s heavy lobbying. This time, the resolution should be passed by the plenary session to underscore that there is no statute of limitations for war crimes.
In this respect, Japan’s attitude is truly disappointing. In a letter sent to the foreign affairs subcommittee on Asia, Ryozo Kato, Japanese ambassador to Washington, claimed that Japan has already taken responsibility for the comfort women issue and delivered compensation to victims.
Inside Japan, some politicians are making an effort to take back the statement by Yohei Kono, who as chief cabinet secretary partly admitted that comfort women were forcibly mobilized and that the Japanese army took part in the mobilization. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the comfort women issue was fictional before he entered office.
Japan has responded to the comfort women issue spontaneously. When the existence of comfort women was uncovered, the government said it was done by the private sector. When it turned out that women were forced to work as sex slaves, the government grudgingly admitted it and said it felt moral, but not legal, responsibility.
In 1995, the country raised a private fund and tried to calm down victims with that instead of using the government’s budget. The Ministry of Culture, Sports, Science and Technology encouraged scrapping information about comfort women in history textbooks. As a result, Japan faces increasing distrust. Now, a hearing has been held on American soil, a huge disgrace to the country. Japan must implement our demands, such as an official apology from the prime minister, as written in the resolution.