A government panel has reported that some parts of the 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono concerning the "comfort women" at Japan's wartime frontline brothels were the product of diplomatic negotiations between Tokyo and Seoul. Still, the panel's findings do not change the basic thrust of the Kono statement, in which Japan expressed its apology for putting large numbers of women — mostly Asian and many from Korea, then under Japan's colonial rule — into sexual servitude for Japanese troops against their will before and during World War II.
If the government is to uphold the 1993 statement, as it says it will, then the Abe administration needs to do what the statement says Japan will do and make proactive efforts to settle the long-running dispute, instead of repeatedly attempting to play down the nation's responsibility for the ordeal of the women forced into wartime sexual slavery.
The five-member panel led by former prosecutor-general Teiichi Tadaki, in reviewing the process in which the Kono statement was issued by the administration of Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, said that Japanese and South Korean diplomats negotiated the wording of the text before the statement was released in August 1993, including expressions pertaining to the involvement of the Japanese military in the operation of the frontline brothels. In the talks that were supposed to be kept under wraps under a mutual accord, South Korea requested that the statement make clear that the women were recruited against their will, the panel said. It also said the Japanese government did not make further inquiries or fact-checking to back up the testimonies of the 16 former comfort women from South Korea who it interviewed.