Japan criticized over ‘comfort women’ listing UNESCO postpones addition to to world register, draws questions
Advocates urged UNESCO to include the history of “comfort women” in the Memory of the World Register program after the organization postponed its decision on Monday.
The “comfort women” historical document is a reminder to adhere to the principle of UNESCO’s constitution “to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedom which are affirmed for the people of the world without distinction of race, sex, language or religion”, the Comfort Women Justice Coalition (CWJC) said.
The coalition, which represents more than 35 international organizations from the US, Asia and Europe to fight for the justice of “comfort women” survivors, urged that Paris-based UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) recognize the “very important chapter in history whose significance in helping to eradicate world sex trafficking cannot be understated”.
It is the second time the Memory of the World Register program has postponed the applications of “comfort women” documents.
In 2015, China submitted the applications of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and “comfort women” documents, but the “comfort women” application was rejected while the Nanjing Massacre documents were accepted.
Last year, an international joint committee representing eight related countries and regions applied to have “comfort women” documents inscribed in the program.
The International Advisory Committee (IAC) for the program, however, recommended setting a place and time convenient to the nominator and concerned parties for a dialogue, with a view toward reaching a joint nomination to encompass as far as possible all relevant documents on “comfort women”.
“The ‘ Comfort Women’ documents met all the standards for integrity, truth in reporting and verifiable sources when (they were) initially accepted by UNESCO for consideration a year ago,” Julie Tang, co-chair of CWJC, said in a letter to the IAC, which is composed of 14 experts.
“We wonder what has changed, other than Japan’s bullying the IAC and veiled threats to pull out of UNESCO,” she continued.
The activists are concerned that UNESCO may be yielding to the pressure of Japan, which withheld its 2016 funding to the organization over the listing of the Nanjing Massacre in the Memory of the World Register.
“It’s a shame that the perpetrator government of the largest case of sex trafficking in modern history can bully a trusted and reputable international organization such as UNESCO into silence with money,” said Phyllis Kim, a “comfort women” advocate and executive director of the Korean American Forum of California.
“By denying its practice of military sexual slavery, the Japanese government is depriving us the opportunity to properly remember and prevent the horrid violation of human rights from recurring, and this amounts to assaulting all women present and future,” she said.
Lillian Sing, co-chair of CWJC, said it was ironic that the IAC declined to accept the “comfort women” application, while on the other hand, UNESCO’s Human Rights Committee has condemned Japan for its atrocities and has urged Japan to apologize.
“Justice has no price. One cannot trade one set of justice over another,” she said. “IAC is to be discredited for selling its soul and selling out the ‘comfort women’ and breaking these women’s hearts once again.”
An aerialist jumps on a trampoline during an event in Times Square in New York on Wednesday to signify that the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, are 100 days away.