• Kyodo


South Korea’s gender equality and family minister has raised the issue of women used as sex slaves by the wartime Japanese military at the human rights panel of the U.N. General Assembly.

Although Cho Yoon-sun did not specifically name Japan, she called Friday on “the responsible government” to apologize and take responsible measures in her speech at the assembly’s Third Committee, which oversees social and humanitarian affairs.

With the advancement of women on the committee’s agenda, Cho devoted a substantial portion of her address to the issue of the “comfort women,” as Japan euphemistically refers to its wartime sex slaves.

This is the third year in a row that South Korea has taken up the issue at the committee. Last year, however, it was only briefly cited.

Cho said more than 100,000 women were forced to work at brothels run by the Imperial Japanese military but “only 56 still live amongst us.”

The average age of the victims is now 88.

“I urge that the responsible government should recognize its legal liability and take appropriate measures acceptable to the victims as recommended by the U.N. human rights mechanism,” Cho said. “I regret to report my deep disappointment at the lack of change in the responsible government’s attitude toward this issue.

“The issue of comfort women is not a matter of the past,” she said, referring to sexual violence against women in current conflict zones around the world.

“It is now an urgent task we must face today. I stand here before you today and ask for the international community’s attention and support so that we may not lose the opportunity to put this problem behind us,” she urged.

Kazuyoshi Umemoto, Japan’s deputy ambassador to the U.N., in his right of reply said Tokyo has previously sent a message of “deep remorse and heartfelt apology” over the issue.

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