Study of English

December 15, 2007

A troubling position on ‘comfort women’ / Yomiuri Shimbun Newspaper, Tokyo, Japan

A troubling position on ‘comfort women’
The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Japanese government must lobby other governments to persuade them not to follow in the footsteps of the European Parliament in adopting a resolution that sullies Japan’s standing.

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution condemning Japan over the “comfort women” issue. The resolution calls for the government to apologize, saying the Imperial armed forces coerced young women in Asia to work as “sex slaves” before and during World War II.

The latest development resembles the resolution adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives over the comfort women issue in July. This matter has now spilled over to Europe. The parliaments of Canada and the Netherlands also have adopted similar resolutions.

However, interest in the comfort women issue has not necessarily been high in Europe. The European Parliament’s resolution was advocated by the minor Green Party and fewer than 10 percent of the members of parliament attended the voting.


Moves behind the scenes
However, Amnesty International, an international human rights organization, has organized hearings of former comfort women, including Dutch women, at various places, and is lobbying many governments to adopt resolutions on the issue. Anti-Japanese organizations with ties to China and South Korea are orchestrating such moves behind the scenes.

When Japan controlled Indonesia during World War II after ousting the Dutch military, detained Dutch women were taken by Japanese soldiers and forced to become comfort women against their will. However, Japanese military headquarters in Jakarta closed down the comfort station immediately after learning of the incident, and released the women.

This was indeed an unfortunate incident, but the story provides “counterevidence” that sinks allegations that the Japanese military systematically coercively recruited women into sexual service.

Officers and soldiers involved in the incident were sentenced as Class-B and Class-C war criminals by a war tribunal in the Netherlands after the war.

The German military had more than 500 “comfort stations” in East Europe and other occupied areas, yet we rarely hear a peep about this. A number of documents verify this fact, including a report by an official of the Catholic Church to the then pope, saying Nazis took Jewish women to serve as prostitutes for German soldiers.


Kono statement to blame
The Green Party that advocated the adoption of the latest resolution has many German members. We wonder if they intend to keep silent over what happened in their own country many years ago.

One reason why Japan has been repeatedly dragged over the coals regarding the comfort women issue is the 1993 statement issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. The statement suggested that Japanese officials systematically and coercively recruited women to be comfort women.

However, there is not one single document or a shred of evidence that substantiates this. Nobuo Ishihara, deputy chief secretary at that time, later said the Kono statement was issued to deflect pressure from South Korea, which had been pressing Japan to acknowledge it had carted off comfort women.

The government must review the Kono statement, which has become a source of misunderstanding in the international community.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 15, 2007)

(Dec. 15, 2007)


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