Hiding Facts of History

By  Erick San Juan

South Korean comfort women (file photo)

South Korean comfort women (file photo)

The forthcoming visit of US President Barack Obama in this part of the region particularly to its allies Japan and South Korea seemed to put pressure on the two allies to iron out its long-standing issue on the war crimes committed by the Japanese army during the Second World War particularly on the issue of the ‘comfort women’ as sex slaves.

From the report of Alastair Gale of Wall Street Journal online – “Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye met for the first time late last month at a three-way summit with Pres. Barack Obama in The Hague. That meeting was carefully brokered to focus on regional security and avoid the flashpoint topics of Japan’s wartime behavior, which have been at the center of the deterioration in the bilateral relationship.

One of the most contentious of those topics is that of the “comfort women,” or women coerced into servitude in brothels used by the Japanese military in the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the women were Korean. South Korea is seeking a new formal apology to the women and a state-funded compensation scheme that acknowledges the government’s role in the coercion.”

Remember in February 28, 2014 Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated that the country’s government has intended to recheck the credibility of the victims among women from Korea and other states who had been exploited in field Japanese army brothels during WWII. (The words of 16 “comfort women” served as a basis for acknowledging by the former Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan Yohei Kono in 1993 of the fact that sexual slavery had taken place).

Yoshihide Suga underlined the Abe administration was still insisting on the absence of the documents showing the violent nature of Korean women mobilization. It is worth noting that the result of the surveys of Japanese citizens by local media showed that almost 60 percent of the country’s population supported this ‘recheck’ initiated by the Abe administration.

No less provocative words came from the CEO of NHK TV company Katsuo Momii. He said creation of field brothels where the locals had been exploited had been a common practice for all countries participated in WWII and “it seemed wrong only from the standpoint of modern morality.”

As of this writing, Japan Broadcasting Corp.’s (NHK) president apologized on national television. Speaking on the weekly digest program called Totteoki Sunday, Katsuo Momii expressed regret for his previous comments on the issue of “comfort women.” (After he earned the ire of the public and requests for his resignation.)

Japanese high-ranking policymakers’ attempts to deny the obvious facts of the past have been criticized by the Chinese Foreign Ministry and stated that Japan’s militarists actions were crimes against humanity, the proof of which no one can deny.

Tokyo’s last steps impressively showed that Japan didn’t intend to listen to the voice of Asian countries affected by the crimes during WWII as well as many of the world leading nations that were concerned about the rise of nationalism in Japan and forced buildup of its military capabilities.

Although South Korea and Japan held rare high-level talks Wednesday (April 16) on the extremely sensitive issue of wartime sex slavery, which has contributed to a virtual freeze in diplomatic ties.

Kyodo News cited an unnamed government official as saying the Japanese side would indicate Tokyo is mulling an official apology and money for the so-called comfort women forced to work in military brothels.

Seoul said the meeting between Junichi Ihara, head of the Japanese foreign ministry’s Asia and Oceania affairs bureau, and Lee Sang-deok, South Korea’s director-general for Northeast Asian Affairs, marked the first time high-level officials had discussed the comfort woman issue in isolation.

Briefing domestic reporters after the talks, a South Korean official would only reveal that both sides had laid out their respective stances and agreed to meet again soon.

“They shared the opinion that this issue should be settled speedily in order to remove obstacles in South Korea-Japan relations,” Yonhap news agency quoted the official as saying.

This event to patch up the problem between Seoul and Tokyo came only because the ‘master’ said so but the bottom line here is that the ‘mulling over’ by Japan on such an important matter as the issue on the comfort women is not an assurance that they will do something about it in the near future.

It was also reported (from various online news network) that Japanese politicians have expressed exasperation at Seoul’s repeated requests for contrition.

Repeated wavering since the apology among senior right-wing politicians has contributed to a feeling in South Korea that Japan is in denial and not sufficiently remorseful.

Historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea but also from China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan, were forced to work in Japanese army brothels. There are only 55 surviving former comfort women left in South Korea.

When people try to hide the facts of history and will do anything to change it will someday find itself in the same situation and will regret what they did, and ‘karma’ will catch up with them in the end.


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