A lamentable minister in JapanA dangerous move to deny the 1993 Kono Statement, which admitted and apologized for the imperial Japanese Army’s forcible mobilization of sex slaves during World War II, is alarmingly gaining momentum in Japan since Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s bombshell announcement last month that the right-wing Shinzo Abe government will set up a team to scrutinize what happened in the leadup to the Kono Statement. At a rally in Tokyo earlier this month, the Japan Restoration Party, another rightist faction in Japanese politics, strongly urged Abe to review the previous cabinet’s investigations of “comfort women” in a scheme to revise the Kono Statement.
Yoshitaka Sakurada, a lawmaker of the Liberal Democratic Party and senior vice minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, attended the rally and vociferously denounced the Kono Statement. “I really hate lying or cheating people or fabricated truths. I am eager to root for your efforts,” he said. His remarks translate into the Abe cabinet’s conviction that the Kono Statement was based on victim testimonies that were false.
We are dumbfounded by the retrogression of history acknowledged by a top government official in charge of education policy in Japan. Sakurada serves as deputy president of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Because Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga said later that day that the Japanese government’s basic position inherits the statement, Abe should let Sakurada leave his cabinet. If the Abe cabinet says it will support the Kono Statement, even while allowing him to stay in his post despite his contradictory remarks, who would trust what the Japanese government says?
When Minister Suga simply asked Sakurada to not cause any more confusion on the issue, Sakurada reportedly responded by saying, “I won’t take back what I said.” The episode explicitly shows how much damage the spirit of the Kono Statement has suffered under the current Abe cabinet. At the root of the problem lies the ultra-rightist perspective of Shinzo Abe. He has been earnestly seeking to revise the Kono Statement since 1997, when, as a second-term lawmaker in the lower house, he established a group of young representatives who worried about Japan’s future and history education.
Negating the Kono Statement is an outright denial of mankind’s universal values of human rights and history. The more the Abe cabinet adheres to the misleading attitude on Japan’s aggression-ridden past, the faster Seoul-Tokyo ties will head toward a dead end. Only when Japan demonstrates genuine sincerity when it comes to the critical issue of healing all the pain of the comfort women can both sides open the door to a better future for Korea and Japan.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 5, Page 30