‘Com­fort women’ deal faulted

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By LIA ZHU in San Francisco li­azhu@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Though the Ja­panese-South Korean agree­ment on “com­fort women” was praised by US politi­cians as “a mile­stone” and “the first step”, Chi­nese ad­vo­cates in the US re­gard it as “nar­row” and lack­ing sin­cer­ity.

The agree­ment was a very lim­ited and be­lated step rather than a “mile­stone”, as the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment did not make clear the “in­volve­ment of the Ja­panese mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties” in the com­fort women is­sue or who was re­spon­si­ble, said Peipei Qiu, pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of Asian Stud­ies at Vas­sar Col­lege.

“What is most prob­lem­atic is that the vic­tims did not seem to have been con­sulted when the two gov­ern­ments made the deal,” said Qiu, who is also the co-au­thor of Chi­nese Com­fort Women: Tes­ti­monies from Im­pe­rial Ja­pan’s Sex Slaves.

“The

agree­ment

was reached in a nar­row per­spec­tive with­out con­sid­er­ing the voices of the com­mu­ni­ties,” said Ignatius Ding, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of the Global Al­liance for Pre­serv­ing the History of WWII in Asia.

“Dur­ing World War II, the Ja­panese Army in­flicted tremen­dous suf­fer­ing on the peo­ple of eleven Asian coun­tries, but Ja­pan did not ad­dress its crimes in the agree­ment,” said Ding. “Ja­pan failed to ac­count for their crimes to the vic­tims of Ja­panese ag­gres­sion.”

“Thus far we have not heard any re­port on what steps Ja­pan will take with China and other Asian coun­tries that had large num­bers of women en­slaved by the Ja­panese mil­i­tary com­fort sta­tions dur­ing the war,” said Qiu.

“It is clear, how­ever, that none can an­nounce ‘this is­sue is re­solved fi­nally and ir­re­versibly’ with­out ad­dress­ing the suf­fer­ing of hun­dreds of thou­sands of com­fort women drafted from all the coun­tries im­pe­rial Ja­pan in­vaded,” she said.

It is be­lieved that 200,000 girls and women were sex­u­ally en­slaved by the Ja­panese Army dur­ing World War II, and most of them were from China and Korea.

Un­der the agree­ment reached by Ja­pan and South Korean on Mon­day in Seoul, Ja­pan will give 1 bil­lion yen ($8.3 mil­lion) in gov­ern­ment funds for South Korea to es­tab­lish a foun­da­tion pro­vid­ing care to the women.

“Say­ing sorry and giv­ing money is far from ad­e­quate to ac­count for the ter­ri­ble things that the Ja­panese army did,” said Ding. “Ja­pan even bar­gained to have the ‘com­fort women’ statue re­moved.”

The statue he re­ferred to is of a girl and was in­stalled by a civic group in front of the Ja­panese Em­bassy in Seoul in 2011 to com­mem­o­rate the suf­fer­ing of the “com­fort women”. Ja­pan in­sisted that the statue be re­moved, and South Korea promised to con­sider it.

“The agree­ment lacks cred­i­bil­ity and sin­cer­ity as ex­pressed by the Ja­panese side re­gard­ing what had hap­pened,” said Julie Tang, a re­tired San Francisco Su­pe­rior Court judge and co-founder of the Rape of Nank­ing Re­dress Coali­tion, a San Fran­cis­cobased ad­vo­cacy group for “com­fort women” and vic­tims of the Nan­jing Mas­sacre.

Forc­ing women into sex slav­ery by Ja­panese mil­i­tary was a se­ri­ous crime but the Ja­panese prime min­is­ter added more in­jury by try­ing to make an apol­ogy in the agree­ment so that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions don’t have to apol­o­gize, she said.

Af­ter the agree­ment was an­nounced in Seoul, Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe said in Tokyo, “We must not let this prob­lem drag on into the next gen­er­a­tion.”

“The com­fort women is­sue is not about state pol­i­tics and diplo­matic re­la­tions. It is about hu­man rights,” said Qiu. “From this per­spec­tive, no gov­ern­ment can stop hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tions, and no po­lit­i­cal agree­ment should re­strict fu­ture gen­er­a­tions from learn­ing the hu­man tragedies of the past.”

US Con­gress­man Mike Honda, who hap­pens to be of Ja­panese de­scent, said he was deeply dis­ap­pointed that Ja­pan lacked the com­mit­ment to en­sure they would no longer white­wash history and ed­u­cate fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Say­ing sorry and giv­ing money is far from ad­e­quate to ac­count for the ter­ri­ble things that the Ja­panese army did.”

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