I want to take a moment to look at the House resolution intended to criticize Japan’s government for failure to “acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner” over comfort women who served the Japanese military during WW2 currently under debate in the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment. A recent Japan Times article features some of her testimony from a Feb 15 hearing on the matter:
“The Japanese government is always trying to resolve this issue at its own convenience,” she said. “They took us and forced us to become comfort women and, even now, they continue to deny the facts.”
On an evening in 1944, Japanese soldiers forced their way into 14-year-old Lee’s home and dragged her out by the neck. She was taken to Taiwan, where she was forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers.
“Except for the few wrinkles on my face, I have not changed at all since I was turned into a sex slave at the age of 14. I remained unmarried,” Lee said. “I can never forgive the Japanese government.”
(You can watch a video of the proceedings here. Note the pitifully low attendance!)
Apparently there’s also a bill submitted by opposition lawmakers in the Diet’s upper house to the same effect:
Tokyo should officially recognize the women Japan forced into sexual slavery for the Imperial army in the 1930s and ’40s and formally apologize, a South Korean former “comfort woman” demanded Wednesday.
“I have had it with the Japanese government’s shrewd ways,” Lee Yong Soo said, speaking on a panel with opposition lawmakers who have a bill before the House of Councilors on the wartime sex slave issue.
It should be noted that this caucus of opposition lawmakers has been unsuccessfully submitting similar bills since 2001. It is much smaller news compared to the resolution under debate in the House that is likely to pass after it died last year before coming to a vote (thanks to successful lobbying by Japan).
The prospect of a resolution criticizing Japan’s wartime actions passing in the House has sparked protests at the highest levels of government. Foreign Minister Taro Aso has called the resolution “not based on objective facts,” while Japan’s ambassador to the US Ryozo Kato has written a letter to the subcommittee that tries to emphasize that the matter has already been resolved.
Much of the press coverage of this resolution has been sympathetic to the proponents of the resolution and the former comfort women who gave testimony, while the Japanese opposition has been characterized as embarrassed and callous to these women’s plights. But I’d like to direct you to Yasuhisa Komori’s coverage of the resolution, in which he highlights the statement of Republican California Representative Dana Rohrabacher that opposes the resolution on the grounds of “grave doubts about the wisdom and even the morality of going any further and adopting resolutions like H. Res. 121, which is before us today” mainly because “Japan has in fact done exactly what the resolution demands,” which is the Japanese government’s position (although there are those who would like to retract some of the official statements on this issue).
I don’t often find myself agreeing with the Japanese government on much of anything, but what would passing this resolution achieve for the comfort women’s cause? Would it aid in the ongoing Japanese court cases where they are demanding compensation? No. Would it prevent the Abe government from retracting the “Kono statement” apologizing for the use of comfort women? Nope! Basically, the Korea lobby is trying to use a more sympathetic House to try and humiliate Japan and weaken its position, and Japan isn’t having it. I feel bad for the comfort women, but resolutions like this seem like a colossal waste of Congress’s time and smack of political exploitation. Remember how ridiculous it sounded when France’s legislature passed a resolution condemning the Armenian genocide?