Archive in Japan shares document on sex slaves

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Archive in Japan shares document on sex slaves

An official document confirming the Japanese military’s forced recruitment of sex slaves, or so-called comfort women, during World War II was made public by the National Archives of Japan recently.

The contents of the document contest the Shinzo Abe government’s previous statements that there is no evidence that Japan forcibly recruited comfort women.

The 530-page document, stored in the National Archives of Japan, details the forced recruitment of 35 Dutch women in Indonesia as prostitutes during World War II by the Japanese military.

The document on the Batavia trials, case No. 106, was made public for the first time by the National Archives of Japan upon a request by an unnamed Kobe-based civic group from last month through Sunday, reported Japanese media.

It was a famous case in which five Japanese army officers, including a lieutenant general and four civilians, were found guilty of rape and other crimes by a 1949 provisional military tribunal set up by the Netherlands in Batavia, or present day Jakarta, Indonesia. Japan occupied the then-Dutch East Indies from 1942 until the end of World War II in 1945.

The full document contained rulings, material from Japan’s Ministry of Justice and testimony from officers, including an interview with the lieutenant general in 1966 from jail, in which he admitted “some coercion was seen” with some women when they were signing written consent forms to become comfort women. Other testimony by officers quoted them as stating that they were ordered by seniors to “select women” for comfort stations and that the women were not told they were going to be working as prostitutes.

The original documents were transferred from the Justice Ministry to the National Archives in 1999. They were disclosed to the civic group late last month.

In March 2007, during his first term as prime minister, Abe declared, “There was no evidence to prove there was coercion as initially suggested,” denying countless testimonies of victims and other documentation, as well

as the apology to comfort women issued by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993 following a government study that “revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will.”

This resulted in a backlash not only from Asian wartime victim countries but also globally. Following his return to power last December, Abe raised the ire of the international community and civilian organizations as he made statements that seemed to deny the Kono Statement and the Murayama Statement of 1995, apologies for Japan’s past military aggression.

However, the contents of the documents were already known to the Korean government, said a senior Korean foreign affairs official. “This is already a famous case,” he said, “and just one piece of evidence among many other known documents.”

The document was cited in the 1993 Kono Statement, and the case was also raised in a parliamentary inquiry in Japan in June, raising the question of whether the Abe government was ignoring evidence of forced systematic recruitment of sex slaves during World War II.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]


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