South Korea

Japan must apologise to wartime sex slaves

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 February, 2013, 1:59am


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Every Wednesday a group of elderly Korean women hold a meeting in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

They are the few surviving "comfort women", victims of Japanese colonisation, and they gather each week to ask for a formal apology and compensation from the Japanese government.

The rallies started in January 1992, and to date, there have been more than 1,000 of what are known as the "Wednesday demonstrations".

Japan committed numerous acts of aggression leading up to second world war.

While it carried out its programme of colonisation and aggression in Asia, innocent civilians were seen as mere collateral. In Korea and other countries in the region, many women were forced to serve the empire as sex slaves.

The United Nations has released numerous reports calling for Japan to take responsibility for its past actions. In 2007, the US House of Representatives adopted a resolution urging Japan to apologise formally over its forcible conscription of sex slaves in wartime.

However, we still get absurd responses from some Japanese individuals.

In May, four members of Japan's parliament visited the US state of New Jersey and asked that a monument dedicated to sex slaves, installed in a local park in 2010, be removed.

The lawmakers claimed there was no proof that the Japanese military kidnapped women and forced them into sexual slavery.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has indicated a willingness to repeal the 1993 Kono Statement, in which the then chief cabinet secretary, Yohei Kono apologised for the Japanese military's involvement in the use of women as sex slaves ("Abe warned over Japan sex slave apology", January 10).

Japan must show true remorse for its chequered past to fully restore its moral standing in the global community. If it does not, it will never be recognised as a sincere partner by its neighbours.

The nation's post-war leaders have failed to condemn [and some have even backed] the crimes against humanity of previous generations.

Japan has to learn from the Germans, who humbly apologised to all victims of the war crimes committed by the Nazis and started afresh.

However, Japan's leaders must realise they are running out of time if they want to apologise to the surviving victims, who are now elderly.

Choi Jae-young, Seoul, South Korea