Abe: Kono sex slave apology stands

Upholding 1993 statement seen as bid to ease tensions with South Korea


Japan will not retract its 1993 apology for forcing women into sexual slavery in military brothels during the war, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday in an attempt to ease tensions with South Korea.

The confirmation by Abe followed similar remarks by some of his Cabinet members over the Kono statement that apologized over the wartime “comfort women,” who were mostly Koreans.

Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki visited Seoul earlier this week with the reported aim of conveying Tokyo’s position to the South Korean government.

“I’m not thinking about revising (the statement) under my Cabinet,” Abe told a session of the Upper House Budget Committee. “My heart breaks when I consider the immeasurable pain” inflicted on those women.

The remarks can be seen as dismissing speculation that Japan may alter or water down the statement issued in 1993 by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.

Such speculation, and fierce criticism by South Korea, resulted from the Abe administration’s plan to scrutinize how the Kono statement was compiled, including “verifying” the testimony of 16 South Korean former comfort women that formed the basis for the apology.

The Kono statement acknowledged for the first time the involvement of the military and the use of coercion in recruiting females to provide sex for Japanese soldiers before and during World War II. But some conservative politicians have recently called for a rethink of the statement, claiming it was based on insufficient evidence.

Abe, whose perceived right-leaning policy has angered victims of Japan’s wartime militarism, particularly China and South Korea, also told the committee that he stands by Japan’s formal apology issued in 1995 to wartime victims.

“As for my own historical views, I have taken the position held by previous Cabinets,” he said, referring to the 1995 statement by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama expressing Japan’s feelings of “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology.”

  • Jae Jung

    Mr Abe, you have done very well. The South Korea’s media today did not put this news on the headline; I wonder if the newspaper companies ever wrote about it. On the other hand, when Nippon Ishin whatever that is said they would like to revise the statements, that news was a headline of all newspapers in Korea. You can see how the Korean mass media is instigating anti-Japanese sentiment by putting something like Nippon Ishin case on the headline, and not this news, which Mr Abe said he conforms to the previous governments’ stance towards comfort women. Why is the Korean media not reporting things like this? I am Korean and I believe the media is instigating anti-Jap sentiment. The media is very disinterested.

    • Yuzuriha

      What do you mean? It’s made headlines on Chosun Daily (http://news.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2014/03/15/2014031500243.html), Joongang Daily and pretty much every other news outlet and is among the top viewed news articles of the day on Naver. Do a quick search on a portal site with the words ‘Abe’ and ‘Kono’ and you’ll see the evidence. I agree that normally the South Korean media does very little to help the situation and adds fuel to the fire all too often, but the way you are presenting this makes it sound like the Korean media is conspiring to distorts facts and keep this a secret from the people. I think you exaggerate.

      Let’s not forget also that it’s not a case of Korean newspapers simply making stuff up when it comes to their reporting of what politicians say. Probably the best thing to do in order to help better relations between the two countries is not to give idiots like Nakayama Nariaki coverage in the first place, but like how hate Korea/China literature sells well in Japan, news about Japan’s right wing antics does provoke a huge amount of interest in Korea, and sells well. By all means blame the media for using withering bilateral relations for their sales, but there’s no smoke without fire. They wouldn’t have anything to report if Japanese politicians had not made ignorant revisionist comments in the first place.

  • phu

    If this turns out to be a first step towards improving ties with South Korea and China rather than just self-serving caution, I’ll be surprised, impressed, and very pleased with Abe. This could be a great opportunity: Make it count!

  • Yamaneko

    Jae Jung,

    I’m not going to question your racial/cultural identity, and I do agree that the Korean media does tend to minimize such news and generally play up anti-Japanese sentiments. But most Koreans will not share your view that what Abe has done “very well.” It’s the bare minimum of what he can do/say to appear conciliatory, and doesn’t appear very heartfelt.

    I’m a Korean-American who lived in Japan for four years, speak fluent Japanese, and generally have a lot of love and respect for the Japanese people. And yet I give very little credit to Abe for what he has/hasn’t done so far. With very few exceptions, all he has done everything possible to rile up the extreme right-wingers and gradually making Japan an uncomfortable place for people of Korean ancestry to live/visit. In my mind, he has only raised the bar for himself to appear more contrite, to make up for outrageous statements by himself and his government. And he has a LONG way to go.

  • tiger

    abe has zero credibility now.

    • Perry Constantine

      “Now” implies that he once did.