Japan’s gov’t revisits Kono evidence

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Japan’s gov’t revisits Kono evidence

The Shinzo Abe administration formally launched a reinvestigation into the process that led to the landmark 1993 Kono Statement, in which Japan acknowledged and apologized for its military forcing girls and women into sexual slavery during World War II, Japanese media reported.

An investigation team of 26 Japanese officials and experts has been assembled under the supervision of Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the Sankei Shimbun reported Monday.

They included legal, women’s rights and media experts, who will investigate the Kono Statement “in an academic manner,” according to Suga.

The team is expected to determine if there was any sort of mediation between the Korean and Japanese government ahead of the Kono Statement.

It will summon officials involved in the process such as Nobuo Ishihara, former deputy chief cabinet secretary under Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, to testify on the 1993 statement. Ishihara made statements in the parliament in February that suggested that the Kono Statement may have been a political agreement between Seoul and Tokyo and that there may have been no verification of the testimonies of Korean victims in a Japanese government investigation into the issue in 1991.

In August 1993, Miyazawa’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued a landmark statement that acknowledged and apologized for the involvement of Japan’s military and police authorities in the forced recruitment of the so-called comfort women.

In February, Suga said the Abe government planned to launch a probe to “re-examine” the testimonies of 16 Korean victims made during Japan’s investigation launched in December 1991 on the comfort women issue that led to the 1993 apology.

Kyodo News reported that the first meeting of this investigation team was held last week.

The team is expected to complete their review and compile their conclusions in a report before the end of the current Diet session on June 22.

Abe said in March for the first time that he plans to stand by the Kono Statement, but that was seen as a diplomatic sop to Seoul so it would accept a trilateral leaders summit with Japan and the U.S. in The Hague in March. Abe’s spokesman said his government still planned to conduct a reexamination of the 1993 apology.

Korea wants Japan to formally apologize to and compensate the victims of sexual slavery.

A 64-year-old Japanese man was arrested for threatening to commit suicide with a knife in front of former cabinet secretary Kono’s residence in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, on May 19, the Mainichi Shimbun reported yesterday. The man had been protesting against Kono, including the Kono Statement, it reported, before the police stopped him from slitting his wrists.

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

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