By Koken Tsuchiya
The Japanese government and the Liberal Democratic Party have
overreacted to the resolution introduced in January in the US House
of Representatives that demands Japan formally acknowledge and
apologize for forcing women to provide sex for Japanese soldiers
during the wars. Similar resolutions have already been adopted by
South Korea, so the move is nothing new.
Japan has been strongly urged on repeated occasions to resolve
the "comfort women" issue by such international organizations as
the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UN Committee on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Labor
These are international organizations that generally maintain
neutrality, not countries that suffered under the Japanese
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Aso
insist "there was no coercion in the narrow sense" and there are
"factual errors" in this view of history.
But their arguments do not seem well-grounded. The governments
of the Netherlands and South Korea, which both suffered damage from
Japan, and these international organizations have conducted their
own investigations, including interviews with former "comfort
women". They have recognized the pain that was inflicted on these
On a number of occasions, I have met and listened to the stories
of victims from countries that suffered damage. From what I
learned, particularly in countries occupied by Japan such as China
and the Philippines, in many cases, women were kidnapped, attacked
or confined directly by the military.
Japanese courts have also found evidence of and acknowledged the
fact of coercion. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations
dispatched members to the related countries to look into reports of
damage, and it publicized the results. Based on its findings, the
federation has four times urged the prime minister to make a formal
apology and extend compensation to individuals.
I agree with the theory that the current confusion is caused by
the ambiguity of the government's survey released in 1993 and in
the wording of the statement issued by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary
Meanwhile, there is little evidence that the government has
seriously pursued its investigation since 1993. It has been passive
at best, only interviewing a few of the surviving comfort women in
Some naysayers have even taken advantage of the government's
inadequate response to try to discredit the 1993 Kono Statement
admitting the military's use of women "who suffered immeasurable
pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort
The government must take the blame for failing to take proper
measures. It must look further into the situation and hear from the
victims to reveal the true situation of "comfort women" and wartime
Successive prime ministers have offered apologies. But neither
prime ministers nor foreign ministers have ever personally met with
these aging victims.
Listening to these leaders' recent statements in the Diet, I got
the impression they have not bothered to read the reports released
by the Dutch government after 1993, nor the moving account of
"comfort women" on the Indonesian island of Buru that was written
more than 30 years ago by prominent Indonesian writer Pramoedya
Ananta Toer (1925-2006).
Speculation that is not based on a thorough investigation lacks
It is illogical to argue that just because no official documents
can be found that record the coercion, it therefore never happened.
While many documents were burned when Japan lost the war, a large
number still resides silently in storage rooms at ministries,
awaiting a full investigation to reveal the truth.
A proposal to set up a special bureau within the National Diet
Library to examine such documents and bills aimed at settling the
"comfort women" problem have been repeatedly submitted to the Diet.
Before trying to block the US Congress from adopting its
resolution, the Diet should deliberate on these bills.
Some may fear the resolution could cause a rift in Japan-US
relations. But denying history is much more detrimental to mutual
trust between the two countries.
Mike Honda, the US House of Representatives member who submitted
the resolution, insists that only after Japan acknowledges its
responsibility can it make peace with its victims and pave the way
to stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Asian Peace and People's Fund for Women (Asian Women's
Fund), which dissolved at the end of March, was regarded by victims
and victimized countries as a way for the government to evade
It is time we reconsider what is in Japan's true national
(China Daily via The Asahi Shimbun April 17,