In a move sure to further exacerbate the already strained Japan-South Korea relations, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has said the Abe government will consider re-examining a 20-year-old study that led to a landmark apology over Japan’s wartime system of forced sexual servitude.
Suga, however, reiterated during the House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting that the government of Prime Minster Shinzo Abe will stick to the so-called Kono statement, issued in 1993 by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, who acknowledged many females were forced into prostitution for Japan’s wartime military. They were referred to euphemistically in Japan as the “comfort women.”
Suga said that “it is desirable the statement be reviewed over time from an academic point of view.”
In response to questions from Hiroshi Yamada, a member of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), he added the administration would seek to verify the authenticity of the interviews with 16 South Korean women who said they were forced to serve as prostitutes for Japan’s wartime military.
The interviews were conducted by Japanese officials in Seoul at the request of the South Korean government and were key to Japan’s 1993 statement and apology later that year.
At the same meeting, former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobuo Ishihara claimed the 1993 statement by Kono was based on unconfirmed testimonies.
Ishihara said the government at the time did not verify the testimonies given by the 16 women the South Korean government selected to represent the comfort women.
He led an investigation into the comfort women issue as head of the secretariat under Kono. At South Korea’s request, he sent investigators to the country to hear from the women introduced as former comfort women.
Ishihara said that according to the investigation, those women testified that Japanese authorities were involved in the recruitment process and that they were basically threatened to work at army brothels. But “there were no investigations done to confirm those testimonies,” Ishihara said, explaining that the atmosphere did not allow such work.
Nippon Ishin’s Yamada asked Ishihara whether South Korea implicitly suggested it would not argue any further if Japan admits the forced recruitments.