Scholars urge Abe to renew ‘comfort women’ apology


Nearly 200 scholars have signed a statement urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to renew apologies for the country’s imperialist past and offer to compensate former “comfort women,” victims of its wartime brothel system.

The move comes as the nationalist Abe prepares a statement he is expected to deliver in August to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It is being closely watched for any sign of backsliding on previous Japanese apologies.

The scholars included experts on Japanese and Korean history. The statement, released Monday, implores Abe to repeat his predecessors’ explicit apologies for Japanese violence.

The statement, which was also signed by dozens of journalists, lawyers and rights activists, says Abe’s announcement “must reaffirm that invasion and colonial control caused harm and pain to neighbor countries . . . and it must express renewed sentiments of regret and apology.”

It says Japan must face up officially to its responsibility for the sexual enslavement of thousands of females, an issue at the heart of the bitter enmity between Japan and South Korea, from where most of the women came.

“We emphasize (the need for a) resolution of the comfort women issue at this time, as the relationship between Japan and South Korea has been strained,” said one of the organizers, Haruki Wada, a historian and professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo. “We hope Prime Minister Abe will reflect our voices in his statement.”

Sitting prime ministers offered explicit apologies for Japan’s colonial rule and aggression on the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the war’s end, but Abe has hinted he is unlikely to repeat that — saying instead he wants to issue a “forward-looking” statement.

That sentiment has caused disquiet among Japanese liberals and anger in Beijing and Seoul, which insist Tokyo has not made amends for the war.

Japan offered an apology to the former comfort women in 1993 — the words of which remain government policy — but campaigners accuse Abe of playing down any official role in the comfort women system by the country or its military.

“A renewed effort is called for from the government of Japan” in taking steps “toward the 50 or so surviving victims,” the scholars’ statement says.

A similar statement signed by several hundred academics was publicized last month. Weeks later, 16 Japanese academic societies — including the Historical Science Society of Japan — issued a statement echoing the same sentiments.

Mainstream historians say tens of thousands of girls and women, mostly from the Korean Peninsula but also from other parts of Asia, were systematically raped by Japan’s Imperial forces in military brothels.

Japanese conservatives, however, dispute the historians’ numbers and claim no official documents prove government involvement in the system. They also claim the females were common prostitutes engaged in a commercial exchange.

They have argued that memories of the survivors cannot be trusted and are highly politicized in an issue that serves as one of the main geopolitical fault lines running through East Asia.

Abe has said he stands by previous pronouncements but questions the need for Japan to repeatedly apologize for events more than seven decades ago.

  • Minxy Minamoto

    Why even call these women by the Japanese-English euphemism of “comfort women”. That there were some prostitutes who went into the work willingly isn’t the problem. The issue is that some of the women were kidnapped, kept as prisoners and repeatedly raped. They were sexual slaves. Why not call it the “sex slave” issue? Or focus on the people who did the kidnapping, enslaving and raping. It is an issue of sexual slavers, isn’t it? That’s much easier to apologize for.

    • Thank you for this comment Minxy Minamoto! Sex slaves would be the accurate term for these victims.

    • Toolonggone

      Right-wing Abe regime and imperial government sympathizers want to wash Japan’s hands away from ugly past by scapegoating anyone standing in ‘innocent, beautiful’ la la land.

  • Ron NJ

    Anything using the term “comfort women” is missing the point and just perpetrating the whitewashing of history. Call them what they were, sexual slaves, or don’t even bother.

  • Jonathan Fields

    These professors are gonna get death threats from right-wing groups.

    • Revelation

      Let them grumble on; it’s not like they’re good for much else.

  • R0ninX3ph

    Timefox will be here soon enough to post asinine bollocks about comfort women, any time now.

  • Liars N. Fools

    The American government has been extremely reluctant to call them the victims of war time sexual slavery. When Kurt Campbell and Hilary Clinton used the terms, the career bureaucrat Japan hands decided to rephrase them as victims of the trafficking by the Japanese military for sexual purposes. But the State bureaucrats really do not like using “sex slaves” to pander to Abe Shinzo.

    Maybe these American officials should be taken to task for enabling the evasions of Abe Shinzo and his ilk.

  • Revelation

    Japan has no obligation to make any more reparations to war victims- that was already done and accepted, and to have Abe make yet another apology when the Kono and Murayama statements already exist is nonsense. Instead, he should firmly say his government adheres to those apologies and won’t ever touch them out of respect that Japan already acknowledges the facts, because the issue is he and certain leaders before him have dodged the reality that Japanese ARE aware. Unfortunately, that by itself is very unlikely to happen regardless of how much pressure’s being put on him.

    • We are all wrong

      Good! even today, the German keeps showing the sincere apologies because nothing comforts the pain of holocaust victims. And, the World likes it. What Japan does nowadays only deepens the pain. And, that makes other Asian countries upset. Be like Germans, then Asian countries could be united as European countries.

    • anoninjapan

      An apology is only half the issue. An apology must be made with sincerity and and full contrition and backed up by actions that support such sincerity. Just like Germany has done.

      For example, making it illegal to deny the Holocaust and being members of neo-nazi’s and not to mention the education in the schools to teach what must never be done again and changing the administration of the Govt that it shall never be allowed to have such unilateral power again etc etc.

      What has Japan done…nothing. It said sorry, but all its actions says the opposite to the words coming out of its mouth. It is this that is most telling and also concerning…it is an apology without sincerity and respect. Just like a petulant immature child…

      • R0ninX3ph

        This is exactly the problem. Yes, Japan has said the words before. However, if you do not back up those words with actions, or you instead have people in positions of power coming out and saying the opposite of those words, the words now mean nothing.

        Do like Germany has done, make denying the sexual-slavery of WW2, illegal. THEN… Actually prosecute people who do it, don’t just brush it under the rug. Take away the ammunition other countries can use against you, then we can move on for the region.

  • paul martin

    The fair and correct answer with such an important and hi profile matter would be a national referendum and let the Japanese people choose !

  • Eagle

    Russians, that time Soviets in WW2 went up to Berlin and raped whole Europe in their way and destroyed many women. Never apologized. American troops raped Vietnamese women in the Vietnam war. Never apologized. Invaders go and rape, that’s a tool to demoralize and bring an occupied country to her knees. Although not to that extent but the American troops here do the same. That’s war, that’s occupation – everybody knows every troops do it.

    • R0ninX3ph

      Oh the good old.. “Other people did bad things so its fine” argument.

      It never gets old listening to the same old, tired excuses as to why nobody should ever take responsibility for their actions.

      • Eagle

        No, my comment is not about others doing bad things too. It’s about others don’t apologize. I thought I made it clear. And dyou know why? Because they are the winner. Only the loser has to apologize. That’s what I said.

      • R0ninX3ph

        Well you see, everybody does need to apologise for war crimes, I agree. The problem is, there is a difference between troops raping people (individuals), and Government sanctioned brothels being run by the military (institutional), and then troops raping people in them.

        If you don’t see the difference? Well, nothing can be done to change your mind.

      • Eagle

        I see the difference but I am trying to see all the issues as a whole. Certainly I wouldn’t state that I am the truth but from my chair all I can say that for me all of these rapes mean the same crime and all are equally obnoxious.

        Meanwhile I admit, what the Japanese did was the most obnoxious for the world even if it wasn’t the most destructive. Yet, all were destructive. I find this issue in its present form a kind of demonizing the Japanese, not as if I felt sorry for them, but I just don’t want the other rape crimes from other armies that I mentioned above to be forgotten.

  • timefox

    But issued a statement seeking a “resolution of comfort women issue” in the Abe administration, was reported big this was the only South Korea and Chinese newspaper . Only to China and South Korea are completely ignored in Japanese society it is useful. They is a pathetic fate of the “Japan intellectuals”.

    Value to the remarks did not see through the testimony of forged the comfort women scholars no. You can not see through the lies, did you apologize to that it has criticized the Japanese government based on a lie ? It still is not worth to be no scholar.

    It was 50 years from the Japan-South Korea Basic Treaty. South Korea hope that face seriously in history.

    Comfort women of the problem is Korean issues and the Korean government . Do not forget it .

    There is no need on which Japan compromises with Korea where a Japanese fisherman was slaughtered and Takeshima was invaded at all. There is no necessity to compromise with Korea where comfort woman’s compulsion is fabricated and Japan is blamed at all. There is no necessity to compromise with Korea where Japan-ROK Basic Relations Treaty is ignored and hate to Japan is incited at all. There is no necessity to compromise with Korea where a crime was fabricated and Japanese was impounded at all.

    There is no need by which Japan compromises with an invader on only a number as 50 years at all. Japan should blame a Korean invasion act and make them compensate Korea for a crime.

    Korea should be sincere remorse and apology compensate for past misdeeds against Japan . At that time , true friendship would be born between Japan and South Korea.

    Anyway , what Korea is facing very seriously for the massacre, violence and sex slaves in Vietnam?