Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe is of the position that the issue of the Japanese government having been involved in the forced recruitment of sex slaves for the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II should be dealt with by historical circles. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, spokesman for the Abe government, made it official when he said in a press conference on Oct. 22 that the question was in “the hands of historians at home and abroad.”
We wonder how Abe would react to the statement by a leading group of scholars on Japanese history that “the Japanese army’s deep involvement in forcibly mobilizing sex slaves and establishing military brothels in the Pacific region is an unshakable fact.”
The hard-line Abe cabinet has been on a full-fledged campaign to methodically deny the forced recruitment of sex slaves by crowing about the liberal Asahi Shimbun’s retraction of 16 articles that were based on testimonies by Seiji Yoshida, a former labor recruiter. Yoshida said he had been engaged in something akin to “human hunting” when he rounded up about 200 women on Jeju Island. The Abe cabinet has been fervently denying the forced recruitment because “Yoshida’s remarks proved wrong.”
However, the most prestigious group of scholars on Japanese history has recently issued an official statement on the issue, saying, “Regardless of the authenticity of Yoshida’s testimony, the existence of forced sexual slavery is undeniable.”
The group pointed out that forced recruitment should not be confined to “such cases as recruiters raiding Korean houses and whisking away young girls against their will. It must also include other cases in which the recruiters took them away through cajoling, fraud, blackmail and human trafficking.” The academic group stressed that their coercion of the women, which Abe denied, took place in Semarang, Indonesia, and Shanxi province, China, adding that there is much testimony by victims in Korea. All that should make the Abe administration find it more difficult to deny obvious historical facts.
The Abe cabinet must deeply reflect on what the Netherlands’ king told Japanese Emperor Akihito at his Imperial Palace in Tokyo: “Reconciliation comes when you share others’ pain.” The first step toward genuine reconciliation between Korea and Japan is for Tokyo to admit to the recruiting of sex slaves and take sincere measures to show contrition. It is high time for Abe to stop denying facts.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 1, Page 34