Abe relays intention to revise Kono Statement

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Abe relays intention to revise Kono Statement

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made remarks Monday that indicated he is considering revising the Kono Statement of 1993, a move that would only fuel more sorrow for the Korean women forced into sexual enslavement by the Japanese military during World War II, who are euphemistically known as “comfort women.”

Abe apparently relayed to Hiroshi Yamada, lawmaker of the nationalist Japan Restoration Party, that “there is a need to seriously discuss [this] without missing the timing” of the issue of the Kono Statement, which acknowledged and apologized for the physical and psychological damage and indignities suffered by those victims.

According to Japanese media yesterday, Yamada confirmed that the prime minister gave him that message Monday after a budget meeting at the Diet.

Abe reportedly told Yamada that, according to a Japanese media survey, more than 60 percent of the public agreed that there was a need for a revision of the statement.

In a weekend opinion poll jointly conducted by the Sankei Shimbun and Fuji News Network, 58 percent of respondents said the Japanese government should revise the Kono Statement, while only 23.8 percent said it should not.

The poll was published yesterday, along with a front page Sankei article that questioned why there were no official records supporting the forced recruitment of women and girls by the Imperial Japanese Army during the war.

The survey follows comments made last week by Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the top government spokesman, who argued that testimonies from 16 former Korean comfort women, which were used as the basis for the Kono Statement, were not reliable and should be re-examined.

The issue came up after opposition lawmaker Yamada called into question those testimonies last Thursday at a committee meeting at the Diet. He also called on the Japanese government to release a report on the women’s testimonies and verify the accuracy of their statements.

A possible revision of the acknowledgement, issued on Aug. 4, 1993 by Kono Yohei, the chief cabinet secretary at the time, after an official government investigation in 1991, is drawing strong backlash from Korea, China and other victims of the Japanese military.

“Looking at recent remarks by some Japanese politicians, rather than a change in attitude, they seem to be showing a worsening attitude. They do all the things we request them not to. In such a situation, how can we improve Japanese and Korean relations?” spokesman for the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday to reporters.

Cho pointed out that the Kono Statement was the product of Japan’s own volition and that it had already acknowledged its military’s forcible recruitment of women during the war.

“This issue, as is well known, is not a Korea-Japan bilateral issue but one of universal rights and the dignity of women. [UN special rapporteur Gay] McDougall made this clear in a 1998 UN report,” he stated.

McDougall, as a special investigator of the UN human rights subcommittee, wrote a 1998 report calling out the Japanese government’s legal liability in employing “physical violence, kidnapping, coercion and deception” to procure its victims during the war.

Japan cannot “repent for its past while [avoiding a clear] definition of aggression and saying that colonial rule was lawful,” Cho said.

BY sarah kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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