Japan: Wake up PM Abe! Rather than prostituted, WWII comfort women were serially raped
March 7 2007 Page 10
Tuesday March 6 2007
[Read also: Japan PM's denial of Asian sex slaves casts doubt on sincerity of 1993 apology]
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo AbeWhat part of “Japanese Army sex slaves” does Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, have so much trouble understanding and apologizing for?
The underlying facts have long been beyond serious dispute. During World War II, Japan’s Army set up sites where women rounded up from Japanese colonies like Korea were expected to deliver sexual services to Japan’s soldiers.
These were not commercial brothels. Force, explicit and implicit, was used in recruiting these women. What went on in them was serial rape, not prostitution. The Japanese Army’s involvement is documented in the government’s own defense files. A senior Tokyo official more or less apologized for this horrific crime in 1993. The unofficial fund set up to compensate victims is set to close down this month.
And Mr. Abe wants the issue to end there. Last week, he claimed that there was no evidence that the victims had been coerced. Yesterday, he grudgingly acknowledged the 1993 quasi apology, but only as part of a pre-emptive declaration that his government would reject the call, now pending in the United States Congress, for an official apology. America isn’t the only country interested in seeing Japan belatedly accept full responsibility. Korea and China are also infuriated by years of Japanese equivocations over the issue.
Mr. Abe seems less concerned with repairing Japan’s sullied international reputation than with appealing to a large right-wing faction within his Liberal Democratic Party that insists that the whole shameful episode was a case of healthy private enterprise. One ruling party lawmaker, in his misplaced zeal to exculpate the Army, even suggested the offensive analogy of a college that outsourced its cafeteria to a private firm.
Japan is only dishonored by such efforts to contort the truth.
The 1993 statement needs to be expanded upon, not whittled down. Parliament should issue a frank apology and provide generous official compensation to the surviving victims. It is time for Japan’s politicians starting with Mr. Abe to recognize that the first step toward overcoming a shameful past is acknowledging it.