524 scholars call on Abe to do right thing in Aug.

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524 scholars call on Abe to do right thing in Aug.

A group of 524 Korean, Japanese and other scholars issued a joint statement in Seoul on Wednesday urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to issue a sincere apology for Japan’s wartime aggressions on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II next month.

“History has reversed since 2010,” said Haruki Wada, an emeritus professor of the University of Tokyo, at a press conference held at the Seoul Press Center Wednesday to announce the joint statement urging Japan to face history squarely.

Aug. 15 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the end of Japan’s colonial rule over Korea from 1910 to 1945. The international community remains concerned that Abe will backpedal on apologies by past Japanese prime ministers for Tokyo’s wartime aggressions and colonial rule in his statement next month, adding to bilateral tensions over historical issues.

“I believe that peace in Northeast Asia can be attained when the people who suffered under Japan’s colonial rule can finally be freed from the past,” continued Wada. “Japan also understands the significance of clearly settling issues of history.”

Korean intellectuals who supported the statement included award-winning poet Ko Un; Kang Man-gil, emeritus professor at Korea University; and Baek Nak-cheong and Lee Tae-jin, emeritus professors at Seoul National University.

American academics included Bruce Cumings, East Asia historian and professor at the University of Chicago; Noam Chomsky, renowned linguist and emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Alexis Dudden, East Asia history professor at the University of Connecticut, as well as Wolfgang Seifert, a German professor of Japanese studies at the University of Heidelberg.

Japanese and Korean scholars made a similar joint statement in 2010 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Japan’s annexation of Korea, calling Tokyo’s colonial rule invalid and unjust.

They expect more people to sign the joint statement in the coming weeks.

Lee Jang-hie, law professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, another signatory of the statement, said, “We have looked at the positive progress made by Japan through the [1993] Kono Statement, [1995] Murayama Statement and the summit between former President Kim Dae-jung and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi [in 1998], but since Prime Minister Abe came into office, the progress made by his predecessors has been halted and the situation worsened.”

In Washington, U.S. congressmen and a Korean survivor of wartime sexual slavery under the Japanese government commemorated the eighth anniversary of the “comfort women” resolution, at a reception organized by local civic organizations including Korean American Civic Empowerment.

Resolution 121, unanimously passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007, urged the Japanese government to acknowledge and officially apologize for forcing women into sexual slavery.

“Prime Minister Abe has to learn that to be a good leader in a democratic country, you have to accept historical responsibility,” said Rep. Mike Honda of California, a longtime advocate on the issue who spearheaded the resolution. “You have to do the hard thing.” He urged the Japanese leader to apologize to the surviving victims of sexual slavery.

The reception was attended by surviving victim and women’s rights activist Lee Yong-soo and U.S. representatives, including Bill Pascrell of New Jersey and California’s Adam Schiff and Judy Chu, who also made similar remarks.

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also told a group of Korean lawmakers visiting Washington on Tuesday that Japanese Prime Minister Abe should clarify Japan’s position on Japan’s wartime sex slave issues.

Rep. Na Kyung-won, chair of the National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee, told reporters afterward that Pelosi said to the delegation led by Saenuri Party Chairman Kim Moo-sung that Abe should apologize on the 70th anniversary in August.

Saenuri Chairman Kim expressed thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the 2007 resolution.

Despite such international pressure, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party called on the Abe government on Tuesday to take more aggressive measures to contain what it purports as “misunderstandings” about the women who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II.

Japanese media reported that a special panel of the ruling party found flaws with the statement by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993 and again accused the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun of spreading false reports that Japanese forcibly recruited women into military brothels during the war.

In response, a Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said that the forced nature of the Japanese military’s recruitment of the women into sexual slavery is “already clearly acknowledged in the international community as unchangeable historical fact.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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