Activists fighting for women coerced into work at Japanese wartime military brothels urged Tokyo on Wednesday to scrap the deal it struck with Seoul last month.
They say its terms belittle the women who endured such indignity and dodge Tokyo’s legal responsibility to admit the full extent of what happened.
Around 20 supporters of the wartime sex slaves euphemistically known as “comfort women” yelled slogans outside the Foreign Ministry building on Wednesday denouncing the agreement hailed worldwide as a breakthrough in strained bilateral ties.
“We are opposed to the bilateral deal! Do not hurt the dignity of the survivors any more!” the protesters chanted.
Those present were both Japanese and Korean, and mostly female. The rally was part of coordinated protests in cities including Toronto, New York, London and Paris urging a rethink of the agreement that declares the issue is now “resolved finally and irreversibly.”
The protesters in Tokyo said the deal “thoroughly ignores” the voices of the survivors because it fails to acknowledge that forced prostitution was a crime committed by the Imperial Japanese Army.
They argue that the severity of the case, in which girls and young women were stationed at military bases in areas under Japanese occupation to provide sexual services for troops, leaves Tokyo with an obligation to investigate what happened.
“The agreement contains such phrases as ‘sincere apologies’ and ‘deep responsibility,’ but it doesn’t go so far as to declare Tokyo’s legal responsibility to investigate who did what,” Tokyo grad student Lee Haengri, 28, told The Japan Times after the rally.
Noting that the agreement requires Tokyo to pay ¥1 billion into a fund to help former victims, Lee also said financial aid of the kind is nothing but a “welfare project” that falls far short of real atonement.
At the end of the protest, the participants adopted a statement calling on the two governments to scrap the agreement and work on a new settlement.
The statement also urged Tokyo to acknowledge its legal responsibility for the “crime of sexual slavery committed by the Imperial Japanese Army” and take steps to explore the truth of what happened, prevent any recurrence — and make sure that the episode is correctly recorded in history textbooks.