Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) welcomed last Monday’s agreement between Japan and South Korean regarding the so-called “comfort women” who were captured and used as sex slaves by the Japanese Army during World War II.

Rep. Judy Chu
Rep. Judy Chu

“This is an historic apology for an historic wrong by Japan,” said Chu. “For the women who were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese Army during World War II, the wounds have stayed open for decades.

“Unfortunately for these women, Japan has often denied responsibility and blamed their suffering on war. This has made it difficult for the survivors to recover and offers a shield to those who would repeat these horrors in the future.

“We have a responsibility to close this painful chapter and help the survivors move forward. By acknowledging both Japan’s role and remorse, and by contributing to a fund for the survivors, Japan is setting an example for the world that such crimes cannot be forgotten, ignored, or repeated.

“I hope that this will help the survivors and the people of Korea and Japan to move forward in peace.”

Under the agreement, Japan will apologize to the Korean women for the physical and emotional pain and contribute approximately $8.3 million to a fund for the survivors.

Chu had repeatedly called on Japan to acknowledge its actions, most recently during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Washington in April.

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Santa Clara), a long-time advocate for the women, introduced legislation in 2007 calling on Japan to formally apologize to them. The House passed the resolution without opposition. Honda said in a statement:

“Today’s joint agreement by the Republic of Korea and Japan on the issue of the ‘comfort women’ is far from perfect; but it is indeed, an historic milestone, a step in the right direction, and one which I sincerely hope will finally restore the dignity and honor of the 200,000 girls and women who were sexually enslaved during World War II.

Rep. Mike Honda
Rep. Mike Honda

“In 2015 alone, nine Korean ‘comfort women’ passed away; they passed away without seeing the light and hope of this agreement. Thousands more passed away across the Asia-Pacific region without a promise of closure, justice, or peace.

“Recognizing the surviving grandmothers have such a short amount of time on this Earth, and recognizing the significance of the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Korea and Japan, the two countries have addressed a hard fought issue that required a much needed resolution.

“I am deeply disappointed this agreement lacks a commitment by Japan to ensure they will no longer whitewash history and educate future generations. Only by educating our future generations can we commit to upholding the human rights of all, and ensuring the wrongs of history will never repeat. I urge Prime Minister Abe and the government of Japan to fully commit to this education — and ensure this atrocity never happens, ever again. I am also disappointed this apology is not a formal and official apology issued by the Japanese Diet.

“At the same time, I am hopeful in the promise that Japan will be held accountable to implementing the agreement according to the spirit of its principles — in the eyes of Korea, the global community, and most importantly, the survivors.

“The sexual enslavement of girls and women during World War II is the ultimate example of continued violation against women and children during times of conflict and humanitarian crises. Violence against women is a crime — a crime against humanity. Whether against the Yezidi children and women, or the vulnerable population following a natural disaster, such violence must stop.

“I have been honored to fight and be a voice for these women during the past 20 years. I have shed tears and meals with these survivors. While their pain and suffering are unimaginable, their courage and spirit are boundless. I hope with all my heart, these grandmothers will finally find peace.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco released the following statement: “Today, so-called ‘comfort women’ who lived in terror during the Second World War have finally received the apology they have demanded for decades,” she said. “This historic agreement between South Korea and Japan represents a victory for the survivors and a victory for global human rights. By formally acknowledging and apologizing for this World War II-era atrocity, Japan atones for its past and asserts that human dignity and liberty are universal human rights.

“May the hundreds of thousands of women forced by the Japanese Imperial Army into sexual slavery know that the world will forever remember their courage and determination to win justice. For the women who survive, may this agreement bring peace. For the Korean and Japanese people, may this agreement signal the start of a new era of brotherhood. Following years of international efforts, including the ‘comfort women’ resolution passed by the House in 2007, the global community applauds this agreement.

“As we work together with our allies to transform a painful past into a brighter future, we commend the determined, bold leadership of South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This agreement brings honor to both the South Korean and Japanese people – and hope for a better, more harmonious future.”

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