GENEVA - Japan has found no documents confirming that the “comfort women” were forcefully recruited by military or government authorities, a Japanese envoy told a U.N. panel Tuesday.
Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama made that claim during a session in Geneva of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
The belief that women were forced into sexual servitude is based on the false accounts of the late Seiji Yoshida, Sugiyama said.
Yoshida claimed to have forcibly taken women from the island of Jeju, then under Japanese colonial rule and now part of South Korea, and forced them into sexual labor for the Japanese military before and during World War II.
The Asahi Shimbun in 2014 retracted articles that reported Yoshida’s accounts, Sugiyama noted.
He also briefed the U.N. committee on the historic Japan-South Korean accord reached in December to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the protracted dispute over Korean women who were procured for Japan’s wartime military brothels.
At the outset of his statement at the U.N. panel, Sugiyama said Japan will have a leading role in making the 21st century a time when women’s human rights are not violated.
A South Korean Foreign Ministry official on Wednesday rebutted Sugiyama’s claims.
“It’s a historical fact and has been recognized by the international community that (the comfort women) were forcefully recruited,” the official said.
“We urge Japan to refrain from words and deeds that could impair the spirit of the agreement (between South Korea and Japan on the comfort women) late last year,” the official said.
The panel is tasked with monitoring nations’ compliance with the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It is scheduled to issue its findings March 7 regarding Japan and other nations under review.