1,300 Japanese scholars uphold Kono Statement

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1,300 Japanese scholars uphold Kono Statement

A group of 1,300 Japanese scholars signed a petition urging the Japanese government to acknowledge its forceful recruitment of women and girls as sex slaves during World War II and to uphold the 1993 Kono Statement.

The campaign calling on Japan’s government to maintain the Kono Statement was launched by a group of 15 academics, including Hirofumi Hayashi, a modern history professor at Kanto Gakuin University, the Tokyo Shimbun reported yesterday.

The scholars said in a joint statement that “a re-examination of the Kono Statement, which is in reality the same as denying it, is creating serious tension in regard to relations with the international community.

“The spirit of the Kono Statement has to be actualized, and to enable the female victims to regain their honor and dignity is necessary to retain and advance friendly relations with the United States, Europe, Asia and many countries.”

Professor Hayashi, an expert on “comfort women,” as the victims are euphemistically known, said that the scholars who signed the petition also included scientific researchers, “which indicates a widespread interest on this issue.” They plan to submit the petition to the government as early as the end of the month after gathering more signatures.

It is “impossible to re-examine an investigation that happened over 20 years,” he added.

The movement comes as the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared last month that it will “re-examine” the testimonies from the Korean victims that lead to the apology, issued on Aug. 4, 1993, by Yohei Kono, the chief cabinet secretary at the time.

Current Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Monday said the government plans to uphold the Kono Statement, though it will continue with setting up an investigative panel to verify the testimonies, despite protests from Seoul.

He further stated in a press conference Wednesday that there was no evidence that Korean women were “coerced” and that “there were no documents that proved they were coerced.”

Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced his rhetoric, calling it “reminiscent of Abe’s first term as prime minister.”

In March 2007, Abe declared that “there was no evidence to prove there was coercion” involved in the recruitment of its victims - remarks that resulted in international backlash.

Cho Tai-young, spokesman of Korea’s Foreign Ministry, called the statement by Suga “an attitude that is a mockery of the United Nations and the international community, which request that Japan repent and compensate for [this issue].”

The remarks by Suga were made as Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong and his Japanese counterpart, Akitaka Saiki, met Wednesday in Seoul amid keen interest over whether the two nations could make headway. However, following three-hour talks, they made little progress settling their differences, only reiterating established positions.

Minister of Gender Equality and Family Cho Yoon-sun shared that message in her lecture Wednesday in front of students at Columbia University in New York. In her address, held at the School of Law, she emphasized that comfort women were a key example of violence against women still prevalent in the world today.

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

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