Justice criticizes Japan’s ‘comfort women’ stance

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Justice criticizes Japan’s ‘comfort women’ stance

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Victims of sexual slavery under the Japanese military during World War II and a group of civilians hold a demonstration yesterday in front of the Japanese Embassy in Jongno District, central Seoul, protesting Japan’s passive stance on its military’s recruitment of ‘comfort women.’ It was the 1,098th such rally since 1992. [NEWS1]

The chief of the Constitutional Court of Korea stated yesterday that Japan should apologize to the women who were sexually enslaved by its military during World War II and said that the issue has yet to be fully resolved, despite Japan’s claims to the contrary.

Park Han-chul, in a speech at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, called for the Japanese to provide prompt compensation to their victims, stating that Japan’s actions were “a heinous crime that should never be tolerated by humanity.”

“Some [Japanese] government officials still deny the existence of the draft system despite numerous pieces of convincing evidence,” he said, referring the recruitment of so-called comfort women by the Imperial Japanese Army.

In his speech, he referred to the “comfort women case” of August 2011, in which the Constitutional Court ruled that it is unlawful for the Korean government not to take action to resolve the dispute over the rights of the women enslaved during the war.

He described how the euphemistically-named “comfort women” were blackmailed, kidnapped and tricked into comfort stations in Japan, China, the Philippines and Korea, living in “subhuman conditions” to “meet all kinds of sexual needs from Japanese soldiers.”

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Park Han-chul

Park said that the Kono Statement of 1993 - an apology to comfort women issued by Yohei Kono, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary at the time - “admitted to and apologized for the involvement of the Japanese military authorities in the forced drafting of comfort women.”

However, 20 years later, Japan still has not taken action, Park argued, adding that, “recently, some [officials in the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe] have even asserted that the forced drafting of comfort women should be denied and that the Kono Statement should be corrected, despite ample evidence to the contrary.”

The Japanese government claims that the comfort women issue has been completely settled through the Kono Statement and other arrangements since, including the establishment of the Asian Women’s Fund in 1994, which distributed compensation to victims. The fund was dissolved in 1997.

Park pointed out that the victims and support groups in victim nations, such as in Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines, viewed the Asian Women’s Fund “as a way for the Japanese government to evade its responsibility and express strong opposition to the idea of treating the comfort women as those in need of humanitarian aid.”

He went on to say that the issue of comfort women had also not been discussed when Korea and Japan signed a treaty in 1965 establishing relations and that the two countries have different views on whether the pact actually addressed it.

Park also referred to various international reports and resolutions critical of Japan’s passive stance, such as a 1996 report from the United Nations Sub-Commission on Human Rights that confirmed that Japan was in violation of human rights, and the 2007 resolution unanimously adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives that mandated that the Japanese government apologize for wartime events.

“At present, there are 56 surviving comfort women in Korea, and they are all advanced in years,” said Park. “And this is one of the reasons why Japan has to pay promptly for damages done and make sincere apologies to them.”

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

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