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Please Make an Official Apology and Provide State Compensation to the Survivors of Japan’s Wartime Sexual Violence NOW!

Please Make an Official Apology and Provide State Compensation to the Survivors of Japan’s Wartime Sexual Violence NOW!
                                    March 29, 2007  (日本語はこちら

Dear Prime Minister of Japan Abe Shinzo,

We are citizens and groups working in various ways towards an honest solution to the issue of wartime sexual violence that Japan committed in the past.

The problem of an official apology and compensation to the survivors of Japan’s military “comfort women” has been daily news ever since you became Prime Minister. Unfortunately, this is not a result of Japan accepting responsibility for its past wrongdoing, but of your irresponsible comments concerning efforts overseas to seek Japan’s accountability. This is more than just embarrassing for us citizens of Japan.

Now, criticism and protests against your denials have spread, not only in countries where the victimized women are from, namely Korea, China, Taiwan, the Philippines and the Netherlands, but also in other countries such as the United States and Canada. This is because there is a large gap in understanding between the international community and the Prime Minister. International anger has arisen from the following:

1. The dishonesty of the Prime Minister’s repeated ambiguous and insincere personal apologies and denials of facts, in place of making efforts for an official State apology and compensation You stated when taking office as Prime Minister that you would sustain the 1993 “Kono Statement.” Soon afterwards, however, you noted that “there was ‘coercion in the broad sense’ including inappropriate ways of recruitment, but no ‘coercion in the narrow sense’ such as forcible taking of the women by officials”, which generated international condemnation. Then, you underlined that “the comfort women went through hardships and suffered in the heart. My feeling of apology is the same as that of my predecessors.” Yet, you subsequently stated “I will not apologize even if the U.S. Congress adopts the resolution”, furthermore issuing a Cabinet decision which says that “there was no reference found in the materials located by the government which directly suggested that there had been such things as the so-called forcible taking committed by the officials of the military or the government”, re-inviting international condemnation.

2. The discriminatory attitude against the women of foreign origin: discrimination against different gender and ethnicities Prime Minister Abe made the following comment in 1997: "[It is argued] that the society was so Confucian they had to remain silent for fifty years. Is Korea really such a society?

In South Korea there are many kisaeng houses and many people just go ahead doing those things there. So, such acts are not something out of the ordinary; rather I even think that they may be significantly integrated into their lives." ('Young Diet members' league to consider Japan's future and history education' ed., "Rekishi Kyokasho e no Gimon" (Questions About History Textbooks), Tenten-sha, 1997) At the time, you were the Secretary General of this league who published this book. This comment of yours is blatantly discriminatory.

3. The downplaying of Japan’s military sexual slavery in order to highlight the “issue of abduction of Japanese citizens committed by North Korea, an insult to the Japanese nation”When you served as the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary in 2005, you posted to your website the following criticism of NHK’s (Japan’s national broadcaster) program on the 2000 “Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery”: “I suspected that this was a part of North Korean propaganda in which North Korea tried to smooth over the Abductees Issue to emphasize itself as the victim.” In your statements, the “comfort women” issue is always portrayed as something confronting the “abductee issue”. That is why your attitude is criticized as being against the purpose of and efforts for reconciliation and living together peacefully with our Asian neighbors.

Japan’s military sexual slavery began roughly at the time of the Nanjing Incident in 1937. Now seventy years has passed. The lack of formal apology and compensation from the Japanese State to the victims after so many, many years is a focus of international criticism. Those who were made “comfort women” during the war, including girls sometimes younger than ten-year-old, were torn from their lives and made sex slaves. Moreover, they had to suffer again for more than sixty years after the war without the wounds on their body and hearts remaining unhealed. Their lives were destroyed first by the Japanese military, then by the irresponsibility of the Government of Japan. And now, many of those women are leaving for good one by one, without their sense of human dignity having been returned to them.

The Government of Japan must now be courageous and accept responsibility for its past wrongdoing. It must provide an official apology and state compensation to the survivors. We believe that this will lead to peace within Asia as well as the world at large. We also believe that such a decision will also give rise to the possibility of eliminating sexual violence under armed conflict and peacetime in all our societies, today and in the future.

Alarmed by the Prime Minister’s denial of even the slight acknowledgement embodied in the “Kono Statement”, we began this petition as an effort to prevent its revision. Now, regardless of how many times members of the Japanese Government repeat their commitment to the “Kono Statement” and regardless what token words of apology the Prime Minister offers, the international community has learnt that this is not a genuine, sincere response. The world now strongly demands the government of Japan deliver a formal and genuine apology to the survivors. We as citizens of Japan earnestly hope that our government takes immediate action to provide such an apology and legal state compensation that is long overdue.

Today we bring to you 14,406 signatures from Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Germany urging you to support the “Kono Statement” as a bare minimum. We also have put together a brochure explaining why your argument denying “coercion” does not stand. We earnestly hope that our Prime Minister will genuinely share the pain that we share with the surviving women, and that you will demonstrate to the international community that you are a true leader of an honest government, committed to fulfilling responsibility for the State’s past wrongdoings.

Japan Action Network for the “Comfort Women” Issue
c/o Japan Anti-Prostitution Association
2nd Kyofu-kai Bldg., 2-23-25, Hyakunin-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
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