• Kyodo, Staff Report

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A Seoul-based group has released footage of interviews conducted by the Japanese government with victims of forced sexual slavery in World War II to produce the 1993 apology known as the Kono Statement.

“We want the public to see that there is evidence,” a representative of the Association for the Pacific War Victims said Monday at a news conference.

The interviews took place in the association’s office in July 1993, before then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono released the statement the following month.

The statement was the first official admission of Japanese military involvement in the forced recruitment of mostly Asian females to work as “comfort women” in brothels for soldiers.

At the time the group agreed with the Japanese government not to make the videos public, but it has now decided to do so because “(Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe’s government has done severe damage to the Kono Statement,” a representative said.

In the video, two women describe being grabbed by the arms and taken away by a Japanese police officer and a Korean man, and having their arms twisted because they “didn’t cooperate.”

Though 16 women were originally interviewed, the association released only 17 minutes of footage showing the two women because some of the others have yet to speak publicly about their experiences.

In June, a Japanese government panel released a report on the circumstances surrounding the drafting of the Kono Statement. The report stated that interviews with comfort women were intended to learn what they felt and did not delve into the facts behind their testimony.

The study was welcomed by conservatives in Japan but criticized by South Korea and the United States.

In Tokyo on Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga described the release of the footage as “very regrettable.”

“The interviews were conducted on the condition that they would not be made public. . . . It’s difficult to understand why (the group) released only some part (of the video), and it’s very regrettable,” Suga told a regularly scheduled press briefing.

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