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Sex slavery victims angry over Japan’s 1993 apology review

A Seoul civic group representing Korean women forced into sexual slavery by Japan during World War II slammed the Japanese government Saturday for its attempt to undermine the credibility of its 1993 apology, adding the move is clearly a “regression of history.”

“(Japan) has undermined (the Kono statement) by saying that it was written upon the request from the South Korean government,” the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery said.

“The move is a provocation against the global society which yearns for the eradication of wartime violence on women and the rightful history,” it added. “Japan has pushed the prolonged debate to the starting point.”

The remarks came as a team of experts appointed by the Japanese government, which reviewed the background to the Kono statement, said Friday that Seoul and Tokyo officials had fine-tuned the sensitive wording of the statement.

The Kono statement, which acknowledged and apologized for the Japanese military’s “coercion” of women into sexual slavery and was issued by then Japanese cabinet secretary Yohei Kono, has been a key element of the basis of relations between Seoul and Tokyo, together with a broader 1995 apology for the colonial occupation, known as the “Murayama statement.”

Although Japan said that there is no change in its stance not to revise the statement, Seoul’s foreign ministry had said the results of the review had misleading content that undercut the credibility of the statement, and urged Tokyo to sincerely resolve the issue.

Seoul’s foreign ministry said that the Kono statement was made based on Tokyo’s own investigations and judgment.

The South Korean government has repeatedly reiterated that if Japan announces results that “undermine” the spirit of the statement, it will aggressively take action by offering historical evidence.

“We again urge there should be a thorough investigation of Japan’s wartime crimes, and it should admit its national and legal responsibilities,” the civic group added.

Historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were coerced into sexual servitude at front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II. Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910-1945. Those sex slaves were euphemistically called “comfort women.”

The civic group has been holding a protest in front of the Seoul-based Japanese Embassy every Wednesday since 1992.

Almost all of the women, now elderly, have died, increasing worries that the remaining victims may also die before Japan makes atonement. Only 54 victims remain alive in South Korea, and their average age is 88. (Yonhap)