Seoul eyes ‘com­fort women’ ap­peal

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHANG YUNBI zhangyunbi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Seoul may fol­low Bei­jing’s lead and sub­mit an ap­pli­ca­tion to UNESCO to record for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions the trauma that “com­fort women” ex­pe­ri­enced and ar­chive them as part of the UN Mem­ory of the World pro­gram, a se­nior Repub­lic of Korea diplo­mat said on Thurs­day.

Pre­serv­ing the painful mem­o­ries of the “com­fort women” is a shared duty of great ur­gency for East Asia, and is not an is­sue of “po­lit­i­cal ma­neu­ver­ing”, se­nior diplo­mats and ob­servers from China and the ROK said.

Kim Dong-gi, di­rec­tor­gen­eral for cul­tural af­fairs of the ROK’s Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, told a China-ROK pub­lic diplo­macy fo­rum held in Bei­jing that he noted Bei­jing’s ap­pli­ca­tion, and that the two na­tions share a com­mon his­tory in this re­gard.

Al­though Seoul is con­sid­er­ing sub­mit­ting an ap­pli­ca­tion, an of­fi­cial one has not yet been made, ac­cord­ing to Kim.

“The spirit of UNESCO is to pur­sue peace, and we are able to co­op­er­ate,” Kim said.

Tokyo protested on Wed­nes­day against China’s de­ci­sion to sub­mit an ap­pli­ca­tion. It has turned a blind eye to the be­hav­ior of its Im­pe­rial Army in forc­ing Asian women into sex­ual slav­ery, and has at­tempted to make the “com­fort women” is­sue a diplo­matic bar­gain­ing chip, some ob­servers said.

Li Zhaox­ing, pres­i­dent of the China Pub­lic Diplo­macy As­so­ci­a­tion and for­mer for­eign min­is­ter, said Ja­panese politi­cians “should have a cor­rect un­der­stand­ing” of his­tor­i­cal is­sues.

He made the re­marks amid grow­ing con­cerns among Ja­pan’s Asian neigh­bors about Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe’s ex­plicit de­nounce­ment on Mon­day of the “Kono State­ment”, which apol­o­gized for Ja­panese war­time atroc­i­ties.

In 1993, Tokyo’s chief Cab­i­net sec­re­tary, Yo­hei Kono, ac­knowl­edged that the Im­pe­rial Army had forced women into sex­ual slav­ery, and he called for fur­ther re­search and for the is­sue to be ad­dressed in Ja­panese text­books.

Lee Dong-ryul, pro­fes­sor of the Depart­ment of Chi­nese Stud­ies at Dong­duk Women’s Univer­sity in Seoul, said the “com­fort women” is­sue is a “highly sen­si­tive topic” in the ROK, and it is “a duty of the Ja­panese govern­ment” to face up to it.

Moon He­ung-ho, dean of the Grad­u­ate School of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies and di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute of Chi­nese Stud­ies at Hanyang Univer­sity in Seoul, said, “Ja­panese politi­cians clearly know that the war­time Ja­panese mil­i­tary com­mand and Ja­panese govern­ment have a di­rect or in­di­rect con­nec­tion to the pol­i­cy­mak­ing of es­tab­lish­ing the ‘com­fort women’ sys­tem.”

Zhou Qing’an, a pro­fes­sor of pub­lic diplo­macy at Ts­inghua Univer­sity in Bei­jing, said, “The fre­quent de­nial or de­nounce­ment of the Kono State­ment made by Ja­panese politi­cians has pro­jected one of the darker sides of Ja­pan’s na­tional im­age.”

MENG ZHUBIN / FOR CHINA DAILY

An urn con­tain­ing the re­mains of Chi­nese Ex­pe­di­tionary Force soldiers is taken to a ceme­tery in Teng­chong, Yun­nan prov­ince, dur­ing a burial cer­e­mony on Thurs­day.

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