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'Comfort women' demand Abe give formal apology

Updated: 2014-06-04 06:51
By Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo ( China Daily)

Five former victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery and their supporters submitted hundreds of official documents to the Japanese government on Monday, demanding that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledge Japan's past atrocities and formally apologize.

Several support groups backing the women - who are from Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea - said the documents collected from around the world include clear evidence of coercion.

Japan apologized in 1993 over the "comfort women" system of military prostitution before and during World War II, but it insists there is no proof the women were systematically coerced by the government, citing the lack of official Japanese documents stating so.

The Cabinet in an Abe-led government in 2007 underscored the lack of proof. Abe recently promised Japan won't change its 1993 apology, but it is re-examining the study that was the basis of that apology.

Neighboring countries have criticized Japan over its review, particularly a re-examination of interviews with former Korean victims, as an attempt to discredit the women and the issue.

"That's a lie. We have evidence. I'm living proof," said Estelita Dy, an 84-year-old victim from the Philippines who was kidnapped by Japanese soldiers in 1943 when she was 12.

"I feel outraged every time I hear people say we were not forced into this. That's why I have to keep telling my story."

She said she was happy to see the new documents and the group's demand to Abe being submitted to the government. She called for a quick resolution to the issue, saying that dozens of fellow victims in the Philippines have already died.

The support groups criticized the government for looking the other way since the 1993 apology and now trying to discredit the content of studies under previous governments more willing to atone for Japan's wartime actions.

The victims and their supporters demanded Abe officially acknowledge that Japan's wartime government and military established and ran the brothel system, and that the women were forced into the system against their wills. They also demanded that the Abe government disclose all official records related to the issue, conduct an additional investigation and promote education.

Historians say tens of thousands of women from across Asia were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers at frontline brothels. Japanese nationalists insist the women were voluntary prostitutes, not sex slaves.

In 1995, Japan set up a private fund that provided 2 million yen ($19,540) each to about 280 women in the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan, and funded nursing homes and medical assistance for those who were sex slaves in present-day Indonesia, including former Dutch sex slaves who were captured in the then-Dutch colony.

In South Korea, more than 200 women came forward and were recognized as eligible recipients, but only a fraction accepted the money due to criticism of using a private fund instead of official compensation.

Yang Chingja, a leader of Japanese supporters of the women, said Abe's government has tried to trivialize the issue as a bilateral dispute between Japan and South Korea instead of a universal problem of sexual abuse of women.

The Associated Press


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