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Hoping the soul of Chinese 'comfort women' rests in peace

By ZHANG ZHOUXIANG | | Updated: 2024-04-21 20:34
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A visitor tours the Chinese "Comfort Women" History Museum on Sept 18,2023. XING YI/CHINA DAILY

The legal process could take time but whatever the final outcome, that the descendants of 18 "comfort women" who were sexually exploited by Japanese soldiers during World War II have filed lawsuits in the Shanxi High People's court against the Japanese government sets a good precedent for seeking justice.

As early as 1992, some "comfort women" had demanded an official apology as well as compensation from the Japanese government; a Japanese court first tried the case three years later. With the help of lawyers from both countries, and after prolonged trial from 1995 to 2007, the Japanese court finally admitted to the historical facts but didn't approve the demand for apology or compensation.

Japan claims to believe in the rule of law, but a self-contradictory ruling that admits to historical facts while absolving their government of any responsibility or compensation for the same makes the public doubt if their judiciary is really that independent when it comes to politically sensitive issues. Actually, the extremely long time the Japanese court took to issue a verdict in the first place, namely 12 years in which some of the women who had suffered passed away, was also seen as an effort to delay the issue so that it dies a natural death.

On Friday, the Japanese government reportedly cleared new middle school textbooks that claim the "comfort women" system existed but was "not coercive". This is what some Japanese middle school students will read when the new academic session starts in the autumn of 2025.

The foreign ministry of the Republic of Korea issued a statement in reaction to this development, even setting up a meeting with the Japanese ambassador there to convey their reaction. It goes to show that attempts by Japan to deny past atrocities will not be accepted.

In 2021, a Seoul court had ordered Japan to compensate 12 "comfort women", shedding light on the possibility of the victims from China getting justice from a domestic court. The precedent set by the court in ROK is definitely encouraging development for all those who suffered the humiliation of being "comfort women" to get justice some day. The 18 Chinese "comfort women" are no more, but we hope that their souls will rest in peace once justice is done.


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