President blasts debate over whether ‘comfort women’ forced or not
President Ma Ying-jeou ( ) stressed Sunday that it is a historical fact that “comfort women” were forced into sexual slavery during World War II, and said the debates surrounding whether these women were forced paint Taiwan in a bad light.
“We should not argue over these questions anymore. They were forced,” Ma said after a screening of the documentary “Song of the Reed” ( ) at the Presidential Office. The documentary chronicles the later years of Taiwanese “comfort women” — women forced into sexual slavery by Japanese forces during World War II.
Ma pointed out that these women are his mother’s age and all lived through a chaotic time. The president choked up several times after viewing the documentary.
“If we are still debating this issue today, it means we are not a civilized country,” the president said, referring to recent protests against changes to high school history curriculum guidelines that touch upon the issue of “comfort women.”
While most of the protesters’ anger is directed toward what they are calling “black-box” or secretive changes to the curriculum to make it present a “Chinacentric” view, some opponents have also questioned a modification related to the “comfort women.”
The change describes the victims of Japanese sex slavery during World War II as “women forced to become comfort women” rather than simply as “comfort women.” Some opponents argue that not all the women were forced.
Ma noted that a 1996 United Nations report has already described the “comfort women” issue as “military sexual slavery” and the United States, Canada and the European Union have all demanded over the years that Japan apologize and compensate the women.
The president said the Taiwan public should help and support these women, adding that the “comfort women” issue is not a political issue, but a historical fact and a human rights issue.