Statements from advocate groups around the globe

December 27, 2015

By Organizing Committee for Japanese Military Sexual Slavery Research Network

Stay vigilant for the hasty ‘collusion’ on the issue of Japanese Military ‘Comfort Women’

Near the end of 2015, marking the 50th anniversary of normalized diplomatic relations between Korea and Japan, the media is full of reports on the two governments bustling around the Japanese Military ‘Comfort Women.’

Prime Minister Abe instructed Japan’s Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio to visit Korea, and a foreign affairs ministerial talk between the two countries has been scheduled for December 28th. Reports also stated that a negotiation was conducted under the table between the Korean Presidential Chief of Staff Lee Byung Ki and the Japanese National Security Council Head Yachi Shotaro.

There is no doubt that it would be best to resolve the issue while the victims, who are at an advanced age, are still alive. However, a hasty ‘collusion’ made due to limited time will result in the worst step against the hard work put into resolving the issue.

A quarter of a century has passed since the issue of Japanese Military ‘Comfort Women’ was raised in the early 1990s. The efforts made by the victims and sympathizing citizens around the globe to find the best way to resolve the issue provided us with a clear direction: Admission of the facts, a proper apology, reparations, an investigation to find the truth, historical education, memorial projects, and punishment for those responsible. This is the ‘legal common sense’ gained through the numerous global discussions held over the past quarter of a century.

In order to achieve a ‘just resolution’ of the Japanese Military ‘Comfort Women’ issue, the Japanese government must first admit the fact that this was a ‘crime committed by the state.’ The apology and legal reparation, therefore, must be made from the state level. Japan must also disclose all related information to the last bit, educate its current and future generations with the true history of what took place, and establish memorial projects for the victims. Those responsible must be identified and punished. Only then will Japan’s ‘legal responsibility’ come to an end.

We would like to emphasize that the current position of the Korean government is that ‘the Japanese government continues to carry its legal responsibility.’ According to the decision made by the ‘Private-Public Joint Committee to respond to Document Disclosure from the Korea-Japan talks’ on August 26, 2005, the Korean government clearly stated that “as for the crimes against humanity such as the ‘comfort women’ issue, in which the state authority including the Japanese government and its military was engaged, the Japanese government has a standing legal responsibility which cannot be considered as waived through the 1965 Settlement Agreement.” The Korean government’s official position was again confirmed by the decisions from the Constitutional Court of Korea on August 30, 2011, as well as the Korean Supreme Court on May 24, 2012.

We reiterate that the failure of the ‘Asian Women’s Fund,’ established in Japan in 1995, was due to an attempt to obscure the ‘responsibility of Japan as a state’. The AWF was a project created to pay the victims ‘consolatory money’ raised from Japanese citizens, provide medical and welfare support with Japanese government funds, and to deliver ‘a letter of apology’ signed by the Japanese Prime Minister at the time. The Japanese government, however, emphasized repeatedly that it would ‘only accept moral responsibility, but never a legal responsibility,’ and a vast majority of victims refused to receive help from the AFW due to its ambiguity.

It is unclear what is being discussed between the two governments. What is clear is that the news reports about the conditions suggested for the agreement are against not only international legal common sense and the true history of the Japanese Military’s ‘Comfort Women’, but also the official position of the Korean government. What was offered and rejected back in 1995 cannot become the solution of 2015; anything less than that would be a waste of breath. Above all, a hasty political collusion will be betraying the hopes held by the victims who have been pleading for ‘a just resolution’ for the past quarter century.

50 years ago, the two governments ‘colluded’ to cover up the past, instead of resolving it in a clear manner, under the name of ‘economy’ and ‘security’. This is what pushed the victims out onto the cold streets pleading for a ‘just resolution’. Repeating this political collusion from fifty years ago will become another tragedy added to the history between Korea and Japan.

December 27, 2015

Organizing Committee for Japanese Military Sexual Slavery Research Network

 

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December 28, 2015

By The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan
The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan

Statement regarding the Agreement on the Military Sexual Slavery (“Comfort Women”) Issue during the Korea-Japan Ministerial Meeting

Today’s meeting between the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan concluded with an agreement on the resolution for the military sexual slavery issue. The survivors of the “Comfort Women” system as well as the Korean citizens sincerely hoped for the rightful resolution on the issue through this meeting, on the year which marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s independence.

The Agreement specified that: first, Japanese government feels its responsibilities for the military sexual slavery; second, Prime Minister Abe apologizes as the representative of the Japanese government; and third, the Korean government establishes a foundation where Japanese government provides the funding while the two governments collaboratively manage initiatives.

Although the Japanese government announced that it “feels [its] responsibilities,” the statement lacks the acknowledgment of the fact that the colonial government and its military had committed a systematic crime. The government had not just been simply involved but actively initiated the activities which were criminal and illegal. Also, the apology was not directly made by the Prime Minister himself as the official representative of the government but was read by a diplomatic representative, while it was unclear to whom he was actually apologizing. Hence it is hard to believe if it was a sincere apology.

In addition, the announcement specified that Korean government will be responsible for establishing the foundation, despite the fact that Japanese government must be actively involved in follow-up initiatives, including acknowledgement of its criminal responsibilities and legal reparations. It appears that Japan will pass the future responsibilities on to the government of the victims’ country after simply paying off the money. Also, it is notable that the Agreement did not specify anything on preventative initiatives such as truth seeking and history education.

The Korean government’s attitude towards this Agreement, which is vague and incomplete, is rather shocking. The government concurred that this Agreement represents a “final, irreversible” settlement of the issues, as long as the Japanese government is committed to the due diligence in the future. Meanwhile, the Korean government promised that it will seek a resolution for the matter of the Peace Monument in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in order to maintain the dignity of the Embassy, and will limit its criticism against Japanese government internationally. This is a diplomatic humiliation.

The Korean government accepted the Japanese government’s absurd condition on the Agreement which demanded the removal of the Peace Monument. Moreover, the attitude of the former which declared that it will not even mention the military sexual slavery issue in the future is shameful and disappointing.

The Peace Monument cannot be a condition or means for any Agreement. It is a public property and a historic symbol representing the peaceful spirit of the Wednesday Demonstrations, which has been continued by the survivors and the citizens for over a thousand Wednesdays. The Korean government cannot mention anything about the removal or moving of the Monument. While the survivors and the civil society cannot accept the Agreement, the governments cannot push their own agenda. Such an act of arrogation only adds to the pain of the victims even more.

All these years, the survivors, supporting civil society organizations and citizens demanded that Japanese government acknowledge its national, legal responsibilities clearly and commit to due diligence in order to recover dignity and human rights of the survivors and prevent any such tragedy in the future. However, the Agreement today is only a diplomatic collusion which betrays the demands from all.

The military sexual slavery issue must be resolved to bring true friendship and peace between Korea and Japan while more survivors are still alive. However, this cannot be rushed while defying proper principle and common sense.

In 2012, the 12th Asia Solidarity Conference for the Resolution of the Military Sexual Slavery by Japan Issue adopted recommendations for the Japanese government to commit to its governmental, legal responsibilities. In order to make such a commitment actually happen, the Korean Council will continue to work tirelessly with the survivors and the domestic and international civil society.

The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan
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December 29, 2015 Tokyo, Japan

By Japan Nationwide Action for Resolution of the Japan’s Military ‘Comfort Women’ Issue

On December 28th, 2015, the foreign ministers of the ROK and Japan met to discuss the Japan’s military “comfort women” issue, and held a joint press conference after the meeting. Since the judgment about the agreement should depend primarily on how the victims perceived it, we would like to offer the following comments on the decision by the foreign ministers of the ROK and Japan. As an organization which has worked hard on resolving the issue of Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery and has made Recommendations to the Government of Japan for the resolution of this issue, which was adopted at Asian Solidarity Conference in 2014 where the survivors and their supporters from a variety of countries and regions met.

1. These negotiations have been carried out from the beginning without consultation with the victims. This is very clear from the result; From the point of view of the survivors there are too many unresolved issues in this agreement made as the “final solution”. In particular, the governments of the ROK and Japan settled the matter politically and made the agreement final under pressure from the United States, whose focus is on security policies. This process clearly resembles the negotiation process that resulted in the ROK-Japan agreements 50 years ago. This is painfully reminiscent of the fact that East Asia remains under US control to this day.

2. At long last, the government of Japan has acknowledged its responsibility. That the Abe administration acknowledged this itself is an achievement of the survivors of Japan’s military sexual slavery and citizen’s movements alike. Neither of these groups has ever given up the struggle over the past 25 years. In order to accept the responsibility, however, which facts are acknowledged is crucial in identifying the scope of the acceptance. In other words in this case the government of Japan must accept the following facts described in our Recommendations;

i. That the Japanese government and military proposed, established, managed and controlled the military facilities known as “comfort stations” ;
ii. That the women were forced to become “comfort women” / sexual slaves against their will, and were kept in coercive circumstances in the ” comfort stations “;
iii. That it was a serious violation of the human rights which contravened a variety both of domestic Japanese laws as well as international laws of the time;

The statement released on December 28th accepting only “an involvement of the Japanese Military authorities”, is not acceptable to the survivors.

3. The foreign minister of the ROK stated on the issue of the Peace Monument (the statue of a girl) that the government of the ROK “will strive to solve this issue in an appropriate manner”. This is a result of Japan’s demand to the ROK which is an insult to the survivors. Such a selfish “agreement” is nothing but cursing the survivors yet again.

4. Further, the fact that the agreement makes no reference whatsoever to educational measures and to passing on the memory to future generations, but rather provides that both governments are to mutually refrain from accusing or criticizing the other in the international community regarding the issue is proof that neither government understands that this issue of Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery is an issue of a/the women’s human rights. At the same time this statement is in contradiction to the survivors’ rights to the restoration of honor and dignity. As such, it is utterly impossible for us to accept it.

5. Whether this issue is “resolved finally and irreversibly” depends solely on how the government of Japan deals with the issue from now on. One must understand that the reason why this problem was not resolved but kept being raised again and again is precisely because the government of Japan failed to provide measures acceptable to the survivors, and because the government of Japan itself repeatedly denied historical facts, including the Abe administration’s attempt to revisit and revise the Kono Statement.

6. The government of Japan must understand that a mere governmental agreement in the absence of the victims will not solve the problem. It must take measures including the following:

i. The prime minister’s statements of apology and remorse should not be presented only in the form of the Foreign Minister reading them on his behalf or of a phone call to the President of the ROK. Rather the Prime Minister must express these things officially once more in a manner that the survivors can accept as a genuine apology.
ii. When a statement is made by an official figure that is in contradiction with the responsibility of the State of Japan or with facts acknowledged in the Kono Statement, the government of Japan must absolutely refute it. It also must take up a resolute attitude against hate speech.
iii. The “projects for recovering honor and dignity and healing the psychological wounds” of the survivors must include what the survivors want more than anything else, namely the full disclosure of all documents possessed by the government of Japan, further research of documents both in Japan and elsewhere, accounting of facts including interviews with the survivors and other related persons both in Japan and elsewhere, and implementing education in schools and in society including references in textbooks used in Japans’ compulsory education.
iv. The government of Japan must acknowledge its responsibility over the issue for the survivors of other areas of the Asia -Pacific and provide measures accordingly.

December 29th 2015
Japan Nationwide Action for Resolution of the Japan’s Military “Comfort Women” Issue
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December 30th 2015

By Comfort Women Justice Coalition (SF/Bay Area)

ON THE BI-LATERAL AGREEMENT BETWEEN JAPAN AND THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA CONCERNING THE ‘COMFORT WOMEN’

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The San Francisco-based Comfort Women Justice Coalition (CWJC), a collaboration of multi-ethnic human rights and community organizations, challenges the recent bi-lateral agreement between Japan and the Republic of Korea concerning the Japanese Imperial Army’s system of sexual slavery by capture of girls used as “Comfort Women” during World War II as mere statements of political expediency by government figure heads and does nothing to include official government action by the Japanese government to formally apologize to the ‘Comfort Women’ or to adequately compensate them.
According to U.S. State Department press briefings and analysis by Asia Policy Point, a Washington, D.C., research center studying the U.S. policy relationship with Northeast Asia, Japan has offered an $8.3 million settlement fund to pay for the care of surviving ‘Comfort Women’ in South Korea, amounting to about $180,000 per survivor, but without money paid directly to each woman. To note, no survivors or descendants were included in discussions. The agreement also silences the ‘Comfort Women’ in South Korea from ever raising the issue in international fora, including the United Nations, leaving the ‘Comfort Women’ without a governmental advocate.
Indeed, Japan has offered nothing of substance. The statements offered were independently issued and not a joint statement. The statement offered by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a diluted version of the 1993 Kono Statement, a statement made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono after a government study that acknowledged Japan’s role in the coercion of girls to the ‘Comfort Women’ system; the Kono Statement continues to be resoundingly rejected by Japan conservatives. The agreement has not been ratified by the Cabinet so is subject to equivocation. The agreement leaves out ‘Comfort Women’ in other parts of Asia, most notably China, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
The agreement also leaves out any requirement for documenting the history and providing World War II in an objective portrayal and including Japan’s role in engineering the ‘Comfort Women’ system. This year, Japan tripled its budget to $500 million to rewrite its role in World War II and not only deny its role with regard to ‘Comfort Women’ and to speak of the Rape of Nanking where over 300,000 civilians were raped and slaughtered in a six week period as the “Nanking Incident” but to erase history from textbooks. This effort has been successful in Japan but their dogged efforts have been less successful globally. The $8.3 million settlement fund is an insult to ‘Comfort Women’ of South Korea, especially in light of the $500 million budget to deny history. A condition on South Korea is to remove a memorial erected near the Japan Embassy in Seoul. Has Japan achieved its goal in buying silence from South Korea? Will it attempt the same in other parts of Asia?
This bi-lateral agreement runs counter to the findings of independent organizations who contributed to the 2014 Recommendations to the U.N. Human Rights Bodies on the Issue of Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery (Comfort Women) and in particular having Japan acknowledge its role and documenting history so that such atrocities do not continue.
CWJC will not relent in its mission for justice for all ‘Comfort Women’ through education and memorialization so that we can one day eradicate modern day human trafficking.
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December 31, 2015

By FeND

Diplomatic “Resolution” does not lead to healing or dignity

This week, foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea announced a bilateral “agreement” to “finally and irreversibly” settle historical disputes arising from the WWII-era Japanese imperial military enforced prostitution/sexual slavery known as the “comfort women” system. The agreement was reportedly reached under heavy pressures from the United States government, which has military pacts with both Asian nations, for its own geopolitical needs. The agreement has been widely denounced by the “comfort women” survivors and their advocates in South Korea, Japan, and elsewhere as an act of further violence to silence the survivors.

In a statement read by Japan’s Foreign Minister, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged “the issue of comfort women” was “a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women,” and expressed his “most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.”

Abe’s apology is a reiteration of previous statements issued by the Japanese government, most notably the 1993 Kono Statement in that it accepted moral, but not legal, responsibilities for the suffering of women under the “comfort women” system. Japanese conservatives, including Abe himself, have long argued that Japanese military’s “involvement” in the atrocity was peripheral (e.g. performing medical checks at military brothels, etc.) and have rejected the notion that Japanese military itself was responsible for the trafficking and coercion of women and girls for sexual exploitation (see Dudden and Mizoguchi for a critique of Abe’s 2007 statement expressing this view, or our debunking of common revisionist talking points).

The new “agreement” does not go beyond Kono Statement in acknowledging Japanese military’s direct role in the coercion and trafficking of women under the “comfort women” system. Worse, the few remaining survivors of the “comfort women” system were cut off from the negotiation altogether, and their voices were systemically silenced. As a result, virtually none of the demands of the survivors are reflected in the final “agreement” that the Korean government accepted, supposedly, on their behalf.

Survivors and advocates continue to call on Japan to fully acknowledge Japanese imperial military’s direct culpability for the violence perpetrated against women from across Asia-Pacific, and to meet other demands of the survivors, which, according to Korean American Forum of California, include:

Full acknowledgement of the military sexual slavery implemented by the Imperial Armed Forces of Japan between 1932 to 1945
Thorough and complete investigation to fully chronicle the scope of the crime
Formal apology from the National Assembly (Diet) of Japan
Legal and full reparations to all victims
Prosecution of the criminals responsible for the crime
Full and ongoing education through proper recording and acknowledgement in textbooks and history books in Japan
Building of memorials and museums to commemorate the victims and preserve the history of sexual slavery by the Japanese Military

For further information, please read the following:

“My country is killing us twice: Grandma wails” on Korean American Forum of California
The official statement of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan
“‘Comfort women’ deal must not deny survivors justice” by Amnesty International Korea
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January 03, 2016
San Francisco, CA

By Japan Multicultural Relief Fund and Eclipse Rising

COMFORT WOMEN MEMORIAL EVERMORE URGENT AND NECESSARY
IN LIGHT OF SOUTH KOREA-JAPAN BILATERAL AGREEMENT

Japan Multicultural Relief Fund and Eclipse Rising, based in the Bay Area, CA, and founding member organizations of the San Francisco-based Comfort Women Justice Coalition (CWJC) denounce the recent bi-lateral agreement between Japan and the Republic of Korea concerning the Japanese Imperial Army’s institution of sexual slavery by capture of girls used as “Comfort Women” during World War II. The agreement is nothing more than Japan’s attempt at permanent historical erasure of the longest-running sexual slavery system in the history of mankind (1932-1945), and unjust silencing of the victims and their principled demands for apology and atonement, turning backs on the fundamental women’s rights as human rights, and justice. Such an act stands diametrically opposed to the mission to eliminate the use of rape and violence against women as a central strategy of war.

We stand in solidarity with the grandmothers in rejecting the assertion by the governments of the US, Republic of Korea, and Japan that this is one step in the “right direction,” as the agreement cannot be said to be official government action, lacking cabinet approval or parliamentary endorsement; to date, the Japanese legislature has never passed a resolution of acknowledging state responsibility for the “Comfort Women” or other atrocities committed by the Japanese military during World War II.

While Japan has committed $8.3 million into a settlement fund to pay for the care of surviving ‘Comfort Women’ in South Korea, amounting to about $180,000 per survivor, Foreign Minister Kishida claimed repeatedly this is not “reparation” but rather, a part of “a Korea-Japan joint venture,” thereby rejecting any suggestion that this agreement Japan admits culpability. Billed as “humanitarian support,” this payment is a mere charity and hush money for Japan.

Indeed, Japan has successfully resisted inclusion of the term “coercion” to describe the ‘Comfort Women’ system in this agreement. Japan’s denial of coercion is a dubious reversion of the “1993 Kono Statement” (made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono after a government study that acknowledged Japan’s role in the coercion of girls to the ‘Comfort Women’ system). In fact, in Japan, conservatives, as well as the Japanese Parliament, reject the Kono Statement. This 2015 agreement (nor any preceding apologies) has not obtained Cabinet or Parliamentary approval, and is therefore subject to equivocation.

Most disturbing, none of the victims were consulted, while this was ostensibly hailed as an agreement on the “comfort women” issue. In fact, the agreement leaves out ‘Comfort Women’ in other parts of Asia and 11 countries in all, most notably China, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The agreement also prohibits South Korea from ever raising the issue in international fora, including the United Nations, leaving Korean victims without a governmental advocate.
At the same time, this agreement leaves out any requirement for current or ongoing documentation and education of Japan’s responsibility for the ‘Comfort Women’ system. In fact, the latest history textbook omits some facts of WWII, leaving a whole post-war generation of Japanese citizens prey to national amnesia, if not denial, about the Japan’s own history. Japan’s demand to remove the “Comfort Women” memorial erected near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul only exacerbates this trend.

This year, Japan tripled its public relations budget to $500 million to rewrite its role in World War II by not only denying its role with regard to ‘Comfort Women’ but downplaying the Rape of Nanking — where over 300,000 civilians were slaughtered and hundreds of thousands of women were raped in a six week period 1937-1938.

The $8.3 million settlement fund is an insult to ‘Comfort Women’ of South Korea, especially in light of the $500 million budget to deny history. This bilateral agreement runs counter to the findings of independent organizations who contributed to the 2014 Recommendations to the U.N. Human Rights Bodies on the Issue of Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery (Comfort Women) and in particular having Japan acknowledge its role and documenting history so that such atrocities do not continue. The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, an advocacy group that has been leading the fight for justice for the Korean ‘Comfort Women’ in Korea for the last two decades, strongly oppose it. Most importantly, this agreement is repudiated by many surviving Korean ‘Comfort Women.’

As a city committed to progressive values and peace, and the first city in the country to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), we call upon all San Franciscans to build upon the unanimously passed Comfort Women Memorial Resolution here in San Francisco and urgently support the building of the Comfort Women Memorial. It is an evermore urgent task at hand, a concrete collective action we can take to resist and condemn historical erasure and denialism, and above all, refuse to justify or condone banishment of women’s voices for justice for the sake of political expediency.

We, the undersigned, will not relent in its mission for justice for all ‘Comfort Women’ through education and memorialization so that we can one day eradicate modern day human trafficking and create a world in which geopolitical and national security interests do not trump the fundamental rights of all girls and women, and eliminate the use of rape and violence against women as a central strategy of war.

Japan Multicultural Relief Fund
Eclipse Rising
Veterans for Peace

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