Protesters in Tokyo denounce ‘comfort women’ deal

by

Staff Writer

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.

  • HANNIE

    To me one of the central issues here is with the textbooks and what Japanese students are taught and not taught in school about the war. As long as textbooks gloss over the past with vague phrases like “advanced into China” and “comfort women” any government talk of regrets and responsiblities is nothing more than hot air designed to kill time, hoping it will all be forgotten. It won’t!! It’s a disservice to the young people of Japan to prevent them from learning from history by discussing how things happened in the past and how to do differently. Meanwhile they are giving the vote to 18 year olds presumably hoping that they will vote blindly.

    • createpeace

      Have you ever read Japanese text books? Maybe not. What you wrote here is just imaginations. I hope Korea stop teaching hate in school. In their only one kind of text book, they never tell that Korea was a part of Japan and Japan build most of infrastructure for them. Also Koreans had a human rights as the same as Japanese people and most politicians and police officers were Koreans in the Korean peninsula in the era. I learned this from official documents written in the era, not from Japanese text books at all. And Korea and Koreans are not sincere or honest.
      In some books written by Koreans old people say they were happily live with Japanese. However as Korea has no freedom of speech now, an old Korean man who said so were killed by young Koreans. Korea teaches hate and younger generation believe the propaganda.
      In addition the women were prostitutes. There were advertisements on newspapers and they had bank accounts. There are lots official documents in the era which tell the women were prostitutes.
      Think about why younger Korean people in the 21st century keep bashing Japan. Korea is next to China who invade neighbors for centuries.

      • HANNIE

        I don’t think it’s quite as extreme as you say Createpeace. Yes, I have seen Japanese textbooks that gloss over history. They use vague words for what happened in Korea and China in the war. Japan “advanced” rather than “invaded”, and “helped” those countries. Yes, Korea was a “part” of Japan. It was a colony and no people that is colonized has ever been glad of that because colonization is done for the benefit of the colonizer. My own country created colonies in history and we also have issues about trying to “prettify” history and say what great things we “gave” to the people whose countries we took over. I’ve also read accounts from many countries both from Japanese soldiers admitting being part of terrible things that happened – and also from women who suffered terribly, being torn away from their homes and families. It could be that some were prostitutes but it’s not true to say they all were. Some Japanese people deny events like the atrocities in Nanking and the chemical experiments made on people in China. The fact that the Chinese and Korean governments have tried to use history does not change the fact that these things happened. Why do you think Koreans “bash” Japan. Do you realy think it was all peace and light in Korea and China in the war. On the other side, many Chinese people treated Japanese orphans very kindly. I think there’s a need for both sides to listen more to each others version of the facts – and I also think high school students should be encouraged to examine what happened before, during and after the war s they do in Germany where they spend much longer on this topic than in Japan. You cannot “create peace” without listening to the other side, patiently listening and challenging and asking more questions.

      • createpeace

        The problem is false information and exaggeration made up by Koreans and Chinese. They never listen to even Koreans or Chinese who have different opinions. In wartime things you wrote would have happened because it is the war. But only the parties know the truth. People talking here are just guessing in the 21st century.

      • createpeace

        Then Koreans don’t admit that the testimonies say they bought parents a house and bought diamonds for themselves while working as prostitutes? They ignore many things and refuse peace.
        It is true that some Chinese and Koreans helped Japanese but it is also true that Japanese citizens were killed by Chinese, Tōngzhōu incident and Koreans when they lost the war with Japan but they never apologize or admit it. Now China has been killing people for more than 60 years. They only care about themselves.

  • createpeace

    Japan has apologized several times though Korea and Koreans had never accepted the apologies sincerely. It is because of Korean culture. For them kneeling down which means to become their slave forever is apologizing. Not forgiveness. Japan has experienced the astonishing reactions by Koreans for more than half centuries.
    Korea should stop teaching hate in school continuing for decades. She should tell the people that in the wartime the Koreans had human rights and most of policeofficers and politicians were Koreans. The population of Japanese was 1% in Korean Peninsula. The Korean newspapers written in the era siad that Koreans forced the girls and Japanese helped the girls several times. She should also admit freedom of speech in Korea now. one of the testimonies say she bought diamonds when she was a prostitutue and she wanted to buy a house so she kept working in her book.

  • createpeace

    Japan has apologized several times though Korea and Koreans had never accepted the apologies sincerely. It is because of Korean culture. For them kneeling down which means to become their slave forever is apologizing. Not forgiveness. Japan has experienced the astonishing reactions by Koreans for more than half centuries.
    Korea should stop teaching hate in school continuing for decades. She should tell the people that in the wartime the Koreans had human rights and most of policeofficers and politicians were Koreans. The population of Japanese was 1% in Korean Peninsula. The Korean newspapers written in the era siad that Koreans forced the girls and Japanese helped the girls several times. She should also admit freedom of speech in Korea now. one of the testimonies say she bought diamonds when she was a prostitutue and she wanted to buy a house so she kept working in her book.