Japan hints at disavowal of ’93 Kono Statement

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Japan hints at disavowal of ’93 Kono Statement

The Korean government yesterday blasted Japan’s latest move apparently to contest the landmark Kono Statement of 1993, which acknowledged and apologized for the physical and psychological damage and indignities suffered by the women and girls forcibly recruited as sex slaves by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

This comes as Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Thursday indicated in a parliamentary meeting that the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to re-examine the testimonies of the victims, euphemistically known as “comfort women,” which were used as the basis for the statement. Suga said that the government may decide to verify the accuracy of the interviews of the 16 former comfort women, used for a full-blown Japanese government study launched in December 1991 to investigate the issue of sexual enslavement during World War II.

The top government spokesman’s remarks came after Nobuo Ishihara - who was the deputy chief cabinet secretary when the apology was made - claimed at the Diet that Japan had never verified the women’s accounts. At that time, he said, Seoul demanded that Japan interview the women after earlier Japanese investigations were found to be inconclusive.

In response, the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a rare early morning statement yesterday around 1 a.m. that stated in strong language that it “cannot accept Japan’s denial of the acknowledgement of the forceful recruitment of Korean women into sexual slavery as stated its own official Kono Statement.”

“The chief cabinet secretary who speaks for the Japanese government, after all this time, declaring that it will install a team to review the testimonies of the victims can only be seen as turning back the hands of time and a disavowal of the Kono Statement,” it said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993 issued an apology for the suffering endured by the Asian women recruited by the Japanese military.

The Kono Statement acknowledged that “the Japanese military [at that time] was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women.”

It further said that many Korean women recruited were transferred “generally against their will” through coaxing or coercion.

The women came forward as witnesses at the time of the investigation “despite indescribable humiliation,” the Korean Foreign Ministry said, warning the Japanese government that “thoughtless actions may incur pain and stir up old wounds” for these victims.

Insensitive remarks about history from right-wing Japanese leaders, particularly concerning its imperialist past - which left deep scars on neighboring countries - are nothing new. Abe has previously made comments that seemed to backpedal both the 1993 Kono Statement and 1995 Murayama Statement, which apologized for Japan’s wartime aggressions.

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