Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said Thursday the landmark 1993 Kono Statement admitting the country’s conscription of sex slaves should not be re-examined, amid growing speculation that the Japanese government will attempt to revise it.
Muramaya also said in a press conference that his 1995 apology for the country’s wartime atrocities was an international pledge that could not be retracted.
“The 1993 Kono Statement came after comprehensive research of the evidence,” the former Prime Minister said. “It’s no good to start an argument over this. It is for certain that military brothels were set for the Japanese army’s needs.”
There has been a growing movement among conservative groups and revisionists to retract the 1993 Kono Statement signed by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. They claim that some of the testimonies provided by former South Korean sex slaves were false.
“Even if they find some mistakes in the Kono statement, it’s doubtful whether that (action) would help Japan’s national interest,” he added, stressing that the South Korean and Japanese governments should solve the issue through talks.
Historical records show that about 200,000 Asian women, primarily from Korea and China, were forced to work at Japanese military brothels.
In 1993, the Japanese government released the Kono Statement, offering a sincere apology and remorse to the victims of forced prostitution and vowed to face the historical facts squarely.
The landmark statement was based on testimonies of 16 South Korean women who claimed that they had been forced into slavery for the Japanese army.
In 1995, Muramaya, who is seen as a left-leaning politician, issued an apology that is widely recognized as the country’s official international statement on its wartime atrocities in the colonial period.
All 10 prime ministers since Muramaya have agreed with the apology, except incumbent Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who argues that some of the terminology used in the text is debatable.
The issue resurfaced this month when Nobuo Ishihara, one of Kono’s deputies in 1993, said in front of other politicians that the statement was not based on hard evidence or and was made without verifying the stories of the 16 victims whose testimony it was based on.
Among the 200,000 sex slaves drafted to the Japanese Army during World War II, only about 1,300 of them are thought to still be alive. About 55 state-registered former comfort women are alive in Korea.
By Suk Gee-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)