On January 9, 2018, the government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) announced its position, in alignment with the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, that the 2015 ROK-Japan Agreement fails to take a “victim-centered” approach and does not constitute a true resolution of the issue of the Japanese Military “Comfort Women” System. Subsequently the ROK urged Japan to make a sincere apology to the victims, whom, with hideous dehumanizing violence, the Japanese Imperial Army had sexually enslaved as “war ammunition” for Japan’s imperial wars of aggression in dozens of countries across the Asia-Pacific region. Signalling displeasure with the ROK’s demand, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will reportedly boycott the Winter Olympics in the ROK next month, while stubbornly insisting that the Agreement had already resolved the “Comfort Women” issue — “fully and irreversibly.”
This Agreement, however, not only lacks official documentation, but fulfills none of the principled demands that, during the two decades preceding it, victims had outlined, as follows:
1. Acknowledgement of Japan’s military sexual slavery
2. Comprehensive investigation into the crimes
3. Official and legally-bound apology
4. Government reparations to all victims
5. Prosecution of the criminals
6. Ongoing education in Japan’s history textbooks
7. Construction of Memorials and Museums to remember victims and to preserve history
The Government of Japan (GOJ) used the 2015 Agreement effectively as a vehicle for shielding itself from having to fulfill any of these demands rather than restoring the victims’ dignity by means of a genuine resolution. The true goal of the Agreement is to promote the illusion that Japan has indeed apologized while simultaneously insisting the crimes did not occur. In the Agreement, the GOJ even prohibits the ROK from using the term “sexual slavery” and disapproves of memorial statues, while spending half a billion dollars for allegedly “recovering the honor and dignity” of the victims.
A sense of irony is not lost on us, when Prime Minister Abe accuses the ROK of foul play by allegedly breaking “an international and universal principle” of diplomacy in demanding Japan’s sincere apology. Isn’t it Japan that is engaging in foul play, to deceive the victims and the conscientious people of the world about the true intent of the Agreement? In complicity with the GOJ, all major Japanese press outlets, including Asahi, Yomiuri, and Mainichi, normalize the GOJ’s deception. With hateful language against Korean and Chinese communities, they recently mischaracterized our “Comfort Women” Memorial in San Francisco as a symbol of Japan bashing, while attacking our multi-ethnic and transnational solidarity for upholding the fundamental principles of justice and human rights. Instead of showing any hint of remorse, the Japanese media escalates the GOJ’s hateful anti-ROK propaganda.
By taking the Winter Olympics hostage, in a desperate measure to punish the ROK, Mr. Abe has hit a new low. What Japan needs in a leader today is integrity and commitment to humanity for a peaceful tomorrow. We call on the peace-loving people in Japan to join the international “Comfort Women” justice movement in denouncing the GOJ’s deception, demanding a full investigation of the Abe administration’s faulty diplomacy in the name of the Agreement, and leading a nationwide act of atonement for Japan’s past crime. By refusing to confront its imperial aggression, Japan has not only failed to end its racism and nationalism but is already turning back onto a path of full-blown fascism under the Abe administration. While the GOJ and the United States consider the “Comfort Women” issue as a mere stumbling block in their re-militarization agenda, it is the victims’ principled demands to the GOJ that will guide us on an alternative path to a peaceful and prosperous world free from fear of sexual violence, where all women, girls, and all people can live a life with respect and dignity.
January 18th, 2018
“Comfort Women” Justice Coalition