The view of a United Nations committee criticizing the recent “comfort women” agreement between Seoul and Tokyo is “extremely regrettable and unacceptable,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday.
Suga was commenting on concluding observations issued Monday by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, which covered various kinds of discrimination against women in Japan.
The U.N. committee said the comfort women agreement — in which the Japanese and South Korean leaders agreed Dec. 28 to solve diplomatic issues involving the women forced into prostitution “finally and irreversibly” — “did not fully adopt a victim-centered approach.”
It went on to say that some of the victims have died “without obtaining an official unequivocal recognition of responsibility” from Japan for “the serious human rights violations that they suffered.”
The U.N. committee’s views do not have any legally binding power.
Under the bilateral accord, Seoul is to set up a foundation to which Tokyo will provide ¥1 billion for a special fund for surviving victims. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also expressed anew his “most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women.”
However, faced with rejection of the deal by many former comfort women, the South Korean government has yet to set up such an organization. The accord was formed without consulting the surviving victims.
During his daily news conference, Suga pointed out that many parties, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the United States and Britain, welcomed the Dec. 28 agreement.
“The concluding observations are far from the perception of the international community. The criticism shown in the view has missed the whole point,” Suga maintained.
The panel’s observations did not “sufficiently reflect the opinions of our side,” and Tokyo has told the U.N. that it considers the view “extremely regrettable,” he added.
Meanwhile, the U.N. committee did not use the term “sex slaves” in its report, a phrase widely used by Western media outlets to refer to comfort women.
Tokyo has argued that the term “contradicts facts” and demanded the committee not use it in its statements.
In Japan, issues involving comfort women are politically sensitive in the extreme, as many right-leaning politicians and scholars have tried to play down the nation’s responsibility by pointing out that private-sector businesses, not the Japanese military or government authorities, were the main recruiters of women from the Korean Peninsula.
Many of those figures also maintain that the military brothels were no different from the state-regulated brothels that existed in many countries, including Japan.
However, the brothels in question were set up under instructions of the Japanese military, often near battlefields, and the military also transported the women to them.
Many scholars thus argue it is the Japanese authorities that should be held responsible for the misery of the comfort women.
The U.N. committee also expressed concerns over many other issues involving discrimination against women in Japan. Among them are:
The Dec. 16 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of Article 750 of the Civil Code requiring married couples to use the same surname. The committee said that in practice the rule often compels women to adopt their husband’s surnames.
Japan’s “discriminatory provisions,” which set different minimum ages of marriage for women and men at 16 and 18, respectively.
The Civil Code that still prohibits only women from remarrying within a specified period of time after divorce.
A lack of comprehensive anti-discrimination laws that cover intersectional discrimination against women belonging to various minority groups who are frequently subjected to harassment, stigmatization and violence.