A U.N. panel has ratcheted up pressure on Japan to resolve the issue of its wartime sexual enslavement of Asian women and criticized its recent attempt to undermine past apologies, Seoul officials said Thursday.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee consisting of 18 independent experts from around the world held a two-day deliberation on a report monitoring Japan’s implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in Geneva until Wednesday.
During the session, the panel called for measures to address a surge in hate speech across Japan, saying at least 360 protests took place last year targeting Korean nationals or ethnic Koreans.
It also stressed that there has been little progress in tackling the long-festering issue despite past international recommendations urging Japan to admit to and repent for its army’s mobilization of frontline brothels during World War II.
In its 2008 report, the panel called on Tokyo to “accept legal responsibility and apologize unreservedly for the ‘comfort women’ system in a way that is acceptable to the majority of victims and restores their dignity, prosecute perpetrators who are still alive, take immediate and effective legislative and administrative measures to adequately compensate all survivors.”
“The committee pointed to ‘clear and strong evidence’ attesting to Japanese government’s moral and legal responsibilities,” a senior official at Seoul’s Foreign Ministry told reporters on customary condition of anonymity.
The official cited a panel member who lashed out at Tokyo for a recent review of its watershed 1993 apology for its conscription of sex slaves, which he said discredited victims and damaged their dignity by questioning the validity of their claims.
The expert urged Japan to use the term “enforced sexual slaves,” rather than the euphemistic “comfort women,” to better reflect the nature of the crimes.
Japanese officials, however, refuted that the victims cannot be categorized as slaves and the feud was settled by a 1965 agreement that normalized relations between Seoul and Tokyo.
The apology issued by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono acknowledged and apologized for setting up “comfort stations” and forcing women to provide sex to the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
The two-day session came as international criticism mounts over the Shinzo Abe administration’s unrepentant attitude toward the sex slavery issue in line with his revisionist drive.
Some records claimed that the number of women involved may have reached 200,000, mostly Korean. Currently, 54 out of 237 registered victims are alive, with their average age at 88.
“We see the international community delivering one message in unified voice as one of the most tools with which to up pressure on Japan,” the official added.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)