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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 November 21 - 27  > Restoration of victims’ honor and human dignity will lead to true settlement of the ‘comfort women’ issue: JCP
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2018 November 21 - 27 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Restoration of victims’ honor and human dignity will lead to true settlement of the ‘comfort women’ issue: JCP

November 22, 2018

The Japanese Communist Party, regarding the December 2015 Japan-South Korea agreement on the issue of the wartime Japanese military “comfort women”, has been stressing, “Only when all former ‘comfort women’ as victims of this system regain their human dignity, a true settlement will be achieved (the 27th JCP Congress Resolution, January 2017).”

The Japan-ROK agreement states that “projects for recovering the honor and dignity and healing the psychological wounds of all former comfort women” will be carried out “under the cooperation between the Government of Japan and the Government of the ROK.” On November 21, 2018, the South Korean government announced its plan to dissolve the Japanese-funded “comfort women” foundation, formally known as the “Reconciliation and Healing Foundation”. This measure, however, will not seek the repeal or renegotiate the agreement. The need is for the two governments to hold discussions in good faith toward rectifying the current situation and establishing a true and fair settlement of the issue.

In 2015, then Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio at a press conference announcing the agreement said, “As Prime Minister of Japan, Prime Minister Abe expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.”

However, soon after the agreement, PM Abe in January 2016 in the Diet said, “There is no fact that indicates that comfort women were used as sex slaves” and “No document has been discovered that indicates that the Japanese military or other authorities such as police ‘carted off women by force to comfort stations’.” These remarks which deny the core of the comfort women issue provoked a strong backlash from the comfort women victims who were unsatisfied with the weak agreement in the first place. Since the conclusion of the agreement, they have said that the agreement was concluded without listening to their demands. They also voiced their discontent with the fact that PM Abe did not offer his apology and express his remorse directly to them.

International organizations are also critical of the Japanese government in regard to its handling of the comfort women issue. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommends that leaders and public officials in Japan not make disparaging remarks about Japan’s responsibility on the issue because it could hurt former comfort women again. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination advises Japan to achieve a lasting resolution of the issue through a victim-oriented approach.

However, PM Abe in January 2018 claimed that the Japanese government has already implemented all its promises to South Korea in a sincere manner, citing the payment of one billion yen which was used to set up the comfort women foundation. Taking a "so-what" attitude, Abe has been asserting that the comfort women issue was entirely resolved and Japan no longer needs to do any more. However, as long as the leader of Japan holds such an attitude, the comfort woman issue will not be settled. In the 2015 bilateral agreement, the Japanese government acknowledged its responsibility and expressed its apology and remorse. Japan should stand by this acknowledgment and act accordingly.

The Abe government should recognize that the nature of the comfort women issue is that Korean women were forced to work as sex slaves during the war. It should make a sincere apology to the victims, uncover and disclose all the facts, and launch an education program about Japan's past mistakes. The need is for the Japanese government to squarely face the historical facts and engage in dialogue with South Korea once again on this issue.

Past related articles:
> UN women’s rights committee criticizes Japan for trying to deny forcible recruitment of ‘comfort women’ [February 18, 2016]
> Japan-ROK agreement on ‘comfort women’ insufficient for victims to feel ‘real freedom’ [December 30, 2015]
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