WASHINGTON – A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said Tuesday its officials met last week with two representatives of Korean women who were forced to work at wartime Japanese military brothels.
“At their request, two members of the House of Sharing met State Department officials on July 31 and discussed their experiences,” Jen Psaki told reporters, referring to a home in South Korea for such women who are euphemistically called “comfort women.”
“It’s important to note that State Department officials have periodically met with members of the House of Sharing in the past,” Psaki said.
The statement came amid a report by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency that two former comfort women had met with White House and State Department officials on July 29 and 30 at the request of the United States. Such meetings were unprecedented, Yonhap said.
A department official said working-level officials from its Japan and Korea desks met with the comfort women representatives of the facility.
Psaki said that she does not rule out such meetings in the future.
Psaki described the sexual trafficking of women, including those from the Korean Peninsula and other areas, by the Japanese military in the 1940s as “deplorable and clearly a grave human rights violation of enormous proportions.”
While noting that this occurred “quite a long time ago,” she also encouraged Japan to continue to address the issue “in a manner that promotes healing and facilitates better relations with neighboring states.”
Japan and South Korea have been at odds over the interpretation of their history during the 1910-1945 Japanese colonial rule of the peninsula, including the issue of comfort women.