Comfort women deal spurs outcry

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Comfort women deal spurs outcry

The latest deal between Seoul and Tokyo to conclude the long-running dispute over the Japanese military’s wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women has spurred a chain reaction in Asia, with more countries calling for similar agreements with Japan.

The domino effect started Monday shortly after the foreign ministers of Korea and Japan announced a deal aimed at ending the 24-year controversy over the thousands of young Korean women and girls forced into Japanese military brothels during World War II.

Today, they are often euphemistically referred to as “comfort women.”

Taiwan reacted Monday by urging Japan to begin negotiations on the issue.

According to international media, Eleanor Wang of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the demand, telling reporters that Taipei has repeatedly called for Tokyo to issue an official apology and offer official restitution for the country’s wartime victims.

More than 2,000 Taiwanese women were forced into sexual slavery, according to the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, but only four are still alive today.

Japan provided financial “atonement” to the victims through the Asian Women’s Fund, though Taipei has said the measure was unacceptable because it was a civilian initiative, not an official action by the Japanese government.

Wang urged Japan to “face history with courage” and handle the issue “seriously and [with] responsibility in the name of humanity and human rights.”

Demands also grew in China that Japan apologize and provide compensation.

“The forced recruitment of the comfort women was a grave crime against humanity committed [in the name of] Japanese militarism during World War II against the people of Asia and other victimized nations,” said Lu Kang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesman. “The Chinese side has always maintained that the Japanese side should face up to and reflect upon its history of aggression and properly deal with the relevant issue with a sense of responsibility.”

The Global Times also ran interviews with the families of China’s comfort women seeking justice.

“I am very angry and upset; so are many other relatives. If Japan apologizes to the victims in South Korea, why don’t they apologize to the victims in China?” said Zhou Guiying, the son of the late Guo Xicui, one of the victims from Shanxi Province.

“They [Japan] shouldn’t hold different attitudes toward victims in different countries,” Zhou was quoted as saying on Monday, adding that China’s victims deserved an apology that reflects Japan’s remorse and sincerity.

According to the newspaper, 16 comfort women filed suit against the Japanese government in 1995, seeking an apology and compensation. In 2007, the Supreme Court of Japan issued a ruling to admit the victims’ damages, but refused to award restitution.

As of 2014, only 23 comfort women were alive in China. The country’s last surviving victim to sue the Japanese government died earlier this month at the age of 89.

Kang Jian, a Beijing-based lawyer who has represented the Chinese victims, told the newspaper on Monday that if Japan decided to apologize and compensate the victims in Korea, there was no reason why they should not do the same for the victim’s in China.

More countries could follow in suit.

Japan forced women from occupied countries including Korea, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and Burma - now called Myanmar. A few women of European origin from the Netherlands and Australia were also forced into sexual slavery.

In the Philippines, Lila Pilipina, a group founded in 1992 by survivors, has demanded justice for years, pressing President Benigno Aquino III to actively support their cause. Its latest statement was issued on Dec. 8 to urge the president to help the survivors seek justice.

North Korea could also demand negotiations.

Ri Tong-je, the chairman of the Association of Koreans in Japan for Peaceful Reunification, published a statement Tuesday on the Chosun Sinbo, the mouthpiece of the pro-North General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, to criticize the deal made between Seoul and Tokyo.

The newspaper criticized Seoul for having struck an agreement with Tokyo without clarifying Japan’s legal responsibility.

In November, a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry demanded an apology and compensation from Japan, further stating that the issue could never be settled unless the sufferings of the Korean people as a whole were acknowledged.

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