Clock ticking for sex slavesThe cries for Japan to apologize for its mistreatment of Korean women over half a century ago are getting louder, and the Japanese government is stubbornly ignoring the issue. The victims of wartime sexual slavery forced by the Imperial Japanese Army staged their 1,000th weekly protest rally on Wednesday in front of the Japanese embassy in downtown Seoul. Other protests were organized to coincide with this in Japan, the U.S. and other parts of the world.
The elderly female victims, as well as human rights groups, have consistently demanded Japan issue a formal apology for its treatment of the so-called “comfort women.” They also demand that reparations be made and offenders prosecuted. In Seoul, the women have protested outside the embassy come rain, shine or snow every Wednesday for nearly 20 years, and during this time all but 63 of the 234 registered victims have passed away. As the average age of the survivors is 86, perhaps Japan believes it does not have long to wait until it is finally let off the hook. But its crime of forcing women into wartime sexual slavery will remain forever in the history books - at least outside Japan.
The Japanese government maintains that it has already apologized for what transpired via a statement made by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993. In the statement, Tokyo acknowledged that the Japanese military was directly or indirectly involved in running “comfort stations,” and that it coerced women against their will into providing sexual services. Although it apologized for the pain and wounds it had caused, the government rejected any legal responsibility in the carefully worded statement.
But subsequent governments have enraged the victims and neighboring countries by saying there was never any coercion. Some bureaucrats even claimed that parents sold their daughters into sexual service, and a group of Japanese legislators told the Washington Post in 2007 that comfort women were handsomely rewarded, earning more most Japanese military generals.
Furthermore, Japan set up the Asian Women’s Fund as a token way of pacifying aggrieved parties and brushing the issue under the carpet as much as possible. And in March of this year, any mention of comfort women disappeared from Japanese history textbooks. But the actions of the Imperial Japanese Army constitute crimes against humanity. Apart from Korea and Taiwan, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has publicly condemned the Japanese government over this issue. Now Japan must apologize while there is still time.