Seoul urges Japan to stop attempts to whitewash wartime sexual slavery

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 21, 2014 - 20:45
  • Updated : Feb 21, 2014 - 20:45
Korean activists hold a rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul on Friday, a day before Japan marks Takeshima Day to stress its claim to the Korean islets of Dokdo. (Yonhap)
South Korea called on Japan Friday to stop any attempts to whitewash its sexual enslavement of South Korean women during World War II after a Tokyo official suggested a plan to withdraw the country’s previous apology for the atrocity.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga indicated in a parliamentary meeting on Thursday a plan to reexamine South Korean victims’ previous testimony used to draw up the so-called Kono statement.

The statement was issued in 1993 by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono to acknowledge and apologize for Japan’s forceful recruitment of South Korean women along with females from other countries as sexual slaves for Japanese soldiers.

“Our government cannot accept Japan’s attempt to question the forcible recruitment and management of comfort women even after the country acknowledged it in the past,” said an official at the foreign ministry.

“Comfort woman” is a euphemism referring to the women forced to work at frontline brothels for Japanese soldiers.

In the Kono statement, Japan admitted to the Japanese military’s responsibility for establishing and maintaining the comfort women system as well as the coercion and deceit used in employing the women while also expressing apology and repentance for it, the official noted.

“The chief cabinet secretary’s remarks on the verification plan seem nothing but an attempt to disavow the Kono statement and reverse the path of history,” the official said, calling on Japan to stop such “thoughtless actions.”

The plan, if carried out, would debase the proper perception of history, which has been the base of South Korea-Japan relations, he said.

Such an angry reaction from Seoul came amid severely frayed ties between the neighbors.

In a nationalist move to whitewash its history of war aggression and atrocities, and restrengthen its military capacities, strictly limited by a peace constitution written after World War II, the right-wing Shinzo Abe administration has repeatedly attempted to downplay Japan’s wartime history while renewing claims to South Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo.

Prime Minister Abe’s respect-paying visit to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine, which honors World War II criminals along with other Japanese war dead, inflamed public sentiment in South Korea, further souring bilateral relations.

South Korea is one of the key victims of Japan’s early 20th-century imperialism, having suffered as a Japanese colony for 36 years. The countries established their diplomatic ties in 1965 after forging a South Korea-Japan treaty.

Amid fast deteriorating diplomatic relations, South Korean civic groups staged rallies in Seoul on Friday to denounce Japan’s claims to South Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo as a local government in Japan prepares to hold an annual event to bolster its territorial claims.

The rallies came a day before “Takeshima Day,” which Japan’s Shimane prefectural government has observed on Feb. 22 since 2005 to lay claim to the rocky islets located in the East Sea. Dokdo is known as “Takeshima” in Japan.

The prefecture is scheduled to host various programs to strengthen its claims on Saturday.

More than 100 members of two dozen local civic organizations protested in front of the Japanese Embassy in downtown Seoul, followed by a press conference to denounce Tokyo’s repeated territorial claims.

“The Japanese right-wing regime must immediately stop educating Japan’s next generations about Takeshima,” said the Dokdo Network, as the members chanted slogans like, “Stop distorting history!” (Yonhap)