Saturday, June 16, 2007

Comfort Women Issue

While searching embassy websites for internships, I stumbled upon a section on the Japanese Embassy website regarding comfort women. I found a few parts of it interesting, especially because it from the Japanese perspective. There are statements such as " The draft House Resolution (H.RES.121) is erroneous in terms of the facts" and " Its adoption would be harmful to the friendship between the US and Japan."

They claim that they have already apologized, using this 1993 statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary:
“Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.”

Maybe it's just me, but that sounds like a pretty legitimate apology to me. True, it is not very official and is a kind of wishy-washy way of apologizing, and apparently the Japanese have not gone as far as the US and South Korea would have liked as far as education and coverage within Japan is concerned. Still, while I think it is appropriate to make a judgment regarding a certain act or event, I am not sure Congress should try to force it upon Japan. I would not have a problem with a US official saying that using comfort women was wrong, but to actually tell Japan to apologize for it through a House resolution seems a bit strange. After all, aren't apologies supposed to be from the heart and sincere, not forced by others? (well, I guess my mother told me to apologize for things to others when I was younger when I didn't want to... does that then make the US the mother of Japan?...)


Sang said...

I've done some research on this comfort women problem for my paper last semester. So my explanation might help you to understand all the background issues and stuff.

First, yes. Japan made its apology about the issue of comfort women. Japan (PM Murayama) established The Asian Peace and People's Fund for Women (Asian Women's Fund) in 1995 to provide financial compensation for the former comfort women and provide healthcares, etc., and issued several statements after its study of the comfort women system (such as Kono Statement of 1993)

But the thing is, the apology was not given through the Japanese Diet (which has the legitimacy), but only given as a statement issued by the Chief Cabinet Secretary.
Also, what made the Asian countries angry is the fact some Japanese Prime Ministers denied the involvement of military and the coercive nature involved in the recruitment process of the comfort women (statement by PM Abe in March 1, 2007, from the Japanese Diet).

Although officially they are saying that the comfort women system is against the American value: democracy and human rights, the true reason that the United States is showing concern about this issue of comfort women is because of its apprehension that the series of conflicts regarding the historical issues, such as Yasukuni Shrine, and comfort women issue might cause unnecessary diplomatic frictions in the region (between China, Korea, and Japan).

Here are some quotes from the report published by the Congressional Research Service (2006)

“Historical grievances stemming from Japan’s imperial past continue to taint relationships in the region.” (CRS Report for Congress: Japan-U.S. Relations)

“Some officials have voiced concern that friction between Japan and its neighbors is hurting U.S. interests in the region. Multilateral efforts such as the Six-Party Talks depend on the ability of all regional players to cooperate in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.” (CRS Report for Congress: Japan-U.S. Relations)

Sang said...

one more thing..
the congressional resolution (H.RES.121)is non-binding.

Christine said...

I admire the fact that you both have obviously done your homework on this issue, but apart from the issue of Congress mandating an apology from one foreign country to another another (which I agree is stepping over some boundaries) the other side of the argument to consider is that the website first referred to in the first post is the Japanese Embassy in the United States. It is in the Japanese interest to make it seem like the government has apologized sufficiently for their crimes, first of all to punt off the House Resolution, but also because it would cut their reputation off at the knees on the world stage...Japan a U.S. puppet? I dont see that going over well at all. Japan wants to make it known that they have apologized to keep the U.S. off its back.

Christina Sin said...

I completely agree with Christine's statement. Although I don't know much about this issue, the one thing I am sure of is the fact that South Korea believes that Japan has not apologized for their actions regarding comfort women. Although it is a step for the Chief Cabinent Secretary to apologize I don't believe that that is the same as the offfical Japanese Diet apologizing and making a statement. If Japan really did sufficiently apologize and make the meants to educate their people, I would believe that South Korea wouldn't have such a huge problem with it. I mean Germany went to great lengths to apologize for their actions with the Holocaust and I don't think that one man apologizing is enough.

Jolan said...

It's interesting to consider Japan's institution of Comfort Women in regards to North Korea's own state-instituted sexual slavery. Bradley Martin talks about it in our book -- that during the 1980s, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il had something they called the Corps: the Felicity Corps, the Happiness Corps, and the Satisfaction Corps. The government recruited young girls to be trained in the ways to please the Kims. Such blatant similarities (re: "Comfort" vs. "Satisfaction") seem almost painful. What differentiates the two? The fact that those in charge of the Corps are part of the girls' own government, as opposed to a colonial power? Or the fact that the mentality of those being abused are perhaps different (Martin talks about how being chosen is considered a "great honor")?