Don’t diminish the apologyThe Shinzo Abe government in Japan is set to submit to the Diet a report on the results of a re-examination of the 1993 Kono Statement in which then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono admitted and apologized for the forced recruitment of sex slaves for Japanese soldiers before and during World War II. A government-commissioned investigation team, which is comprised of five lawyers, journalists and other experts, has been probing since April how the Japanese government came up with the Kono Statement.
According to Kyodo News, the report includes allegations of how Japanese officials fixed the wording of the statement with the help of Korean diplomats behind the scenes. The news agency said both sides made a compromise on who recruited the so-called comfort women. In the beginning, Japan wanted to identify the recruitment as being done by “businessmen honoring the intentions of the military.” But after receiving complaints from Korean diplomats asking that the phrase be changed to “businessmen under the direction of the military,” Japan settled the disagreement by changing the phrasing to “businessmen who received a military request.”
But the Korean government takes the position that the Kono Statement was drafted by the Japanese government after its own investigation. Korea’s view is that the Kono Statement was based on testimony from former comfort women, Japanese soldiers, officials from the office of the governor-general of Korea and administrators of the military brothels as well as on-site investigations in Asian countries. Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono himself said last month, “There is nothing to add or delete in the statement.”
If the Kyodo News report is correct, the Abe cabinet apparently wants to contend that the statement was a political compromise between Seoul and Tokyo. Underlying the move is Abe’s revisionist perspectives on history. The Kono Statement is a fundamental pillar of our bilateral ties with Japan along with the 1995 Murayama Statement in which then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama regretted and atoned for Japan’s aggressions and colonization of Korea.
In March, Abe promised not to actually revise the Kono Statement. But that was a sop to get Park Geun-hye to agree to a trilateral summit with the United States and Japan in The Hague. Abe has to stop playing games with the Kono Statement. Japan must take responsibility for its past misdeeds - and, yes, its past apologies, too.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 18, Page 30