Korean lawmakers condemn Tokyo’s Kono Statement report

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Korean lawmakers condemn Tokyo’s Kono Statement report

The Korean National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee unanimously passed a resolution yesterday condemning Tokyo’s review of the 1993 Kono Statement, calling Japan’s move a serious threat to bilateral relations.

The landmark address, issued by Yohei Kono, the chief cabinet secretary at the time, effectively acknowledged and apologized for the Imperial Japanese Army’s forceful recruitment of Korean women and girls into military brothels before and during World War II. A backlash against Japan’s continued failure to sincerely atone for its wartime actions has gained momentum in Korea and internationally, particularly since the onset of the Shinzo Abe administration. Lawmakers on the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee adopted the resolution with bipartisan support in response to the Japanese government’s report on its “reexamination” of the Kono Statement, which was announced on June 20.

“We condemn the Japanese government’s review of the drafting process of the Kono Statement. Its attempt to deny [the statement’s] core intent is not only a self-contradictory act, but one that is damaging to peaceful coexistence and cooperation in East Asia,” the resolution states. “Kono Statement was a document announced based on the Japanese government’s self-implemented investigation and judgment to take responsibility,” it added.

It also warned that “negating of the importance of the comfort women victims’ testimonies and [Japan’s attempts] to pass the responsibility of the comfort women issue onto Korea will gravely impact the stability of Korea-Japan relations.”

Earlier, Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se presented to the committee his evaluation of Japan’s report.The report ultimately concluded that the Kono Statement was the result of secret consultations between Seoul and Tokyo. It was compiled by a five-person panel commissioned by the Abe administration. Shim Yoon-joe, a ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker on the foreign affairs committee, told Minister Yun that Abe had a “regressive understanding of history” and that “the reports of the results of reexamination emphasizes [the Kono Statement] is the product of governmental compromise rather than objective facts.”

The committee’s resolution vowed to gather additional evidence to prove that Korean women had been coerced into sexual slavery and appeal to the international community to exert increased pressure on Japan for its backward views of wartime history.

On Friday, a group of 18 U.S. congressmen addressed a letter to Prime Minister Abe declaring it “unacceptable” for Tokyo to suggest that there is not enough evidence to prove the women were forced into submission. Lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Rep. Mike Honda, a California congressman of Japanese descent, relayed the signed letter last week to Kenichiro Sasae, the Japanese ambassador to Washington.

“The [Japanese] report’s findings suggest that the coercion of ‘comfort women’ by the Imperial Japanese Army remains unconfirmed,” the congressmen wrote in the letter. “This is unacceptable.”

They emphasized that the issue was one of “fundamental women’s rights and human rights,” and reminded Tokyo to adhere to the Abe government’s pledge to keep the Kono Statement intact.

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

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