Probe of Kono apology evidence to finish soon

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Probe of Kono apology evidence to finish soon

The Shinzo Abe administration is set to conclude this week its re-examination of the 1993 apology by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono for the sexual enslavement of girls and women by the Japanese Imperial Army before and during World War II.

And the results of a Japanese government-commissioned panel investigating allegations that the Korean government took part in the drawing up of the Kono apology may further damage relations with Seoul.

Japan’s Sankei Shimbun reported yesterday that Cho Se-young, a former director-general of the East Asia Bureau of the Korean Foreign Ministry and current professor at Dongseo University, claimed that a Japanese official requested to meet with Korean officials ahead of the announcement of the Kono Statement back in 1993.

Kono, who served in Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa’s administration, issued a landmark statement in August 1993 that acknowledged and apologized for the involvement of Japan’s military and police authorities in the forced recruitment of the so-called comfort women.

At the time, Cho was an official in charge of historical issues at the Korean Embassy in Tokyo, and he told the Sankei Shimbun that a high-level Japanese official requested “private consultations,” even though the official said he realized that if the discussions were revealed later there would be a backlash.

“The Korean side agreed to the discussion because of Japan’s request,” Cho told the Sankei Shimbun.

Nobuo Ishihara, former deputy chief cabinet secretary under Miyazawa, made statements in the Japanese 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.

The results of the Japanese government-commissioned panel’s two-month study of the Kono’s apology has been expected to be released by the end of the current Diet session, which closes Sunday. Japanese media reported that the panel’s report is expected to be submitted to the Diet Friday.

Jiji Press reported that the panel was comprised of five legal, media and other civilian experts under Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

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 of the comfort women issue launched in December 1991 and the process that led to the 1993 apology.

Abe has made remarks that seemed to directly challenge the Kono Statement in the past, but in March he announced for the first time that he plans to stand by the Kono Statement. Yet that statement was considered a concession made so that President Park Geun-hye would agree to a trilateral summit in The Hague later that month with Washington and Tokyo.

The probe into the apology to the comfort women and the evidence behind it was not called off.

Korea maintains that the Kono Statement was drawn up after an independent investigation by the Japanese government, of its own will, and based off official documents and testimony from Japanese soldiers, related officials and victims of sexual slavery.

“The Kono Statement was based on the conclusions of the Japanese government’s voluntary investigation,” said Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il said at a press briefing yesterday. “This is different from a joint declaration or an agreement document. We want to emphasize clearly that this was not some sort of official document that needed prior mediation or negotiation with another country.”

He added that the Korean government will wait to express its viewpoint in an appropriate manner after the panel’s report is announced, emphasizing, “This is not because we do not have a position or nothing to say on this issue.”

Suga said Monday that the Japanese government is ready to explain the results of the investigative panel to Seoul “if there is such a request.”

The Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday that if the “Japanese government announces a result that challenges the Kono Statement on the pretext of an investigation, our government will actively present authoritative claims and records from Korea and abroad.”

The two countries are also set to hold their third round of bilateral director-general level talks on the comfort women issue in Seoul at an undetermined date later this month.

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




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