Women legislators in Korea and Japan have decided to join hands in urging the Japanese government to resolve the issue of comfort women.
Assemblywomen, including Lim Jin Chul and Cho Bae Sook, President and Secretary of the Women’s Committee of the National Assembly respectively, met with the delegation of women from the Diet, including Communist Party member Haruko Yoshikawa (aged 63) and independent member Yoko Tajima (aged 62), to discuss ways to resolve the issue of comfort women.
During the meeting, the Japanese legislators briefed their Korean counterparts on the ‘Bill to promote the resolution of the issue of sexual victims of war’ (Sexual Victim Bill) proposed by the Democratic, Communist and Social Democratic Parties, and asked for Korea’s cooperation.
The Bill was written by the opposition parties last March, and requires the Japanese government to compensate the women who were taken to Japan and forced to work as comfort women during World War II.
Lim Jin Chul responded to the Japanese legislators’ request by saying, “We must urgently address the comfort women issue if our two countries are to rectify historical wrongdoings and find peaceful coexistence. Women legislators in Korea will lend our support, and the Women’s Committee of the National Assembly will call on the Japanese government to pass the bill.”
Honor Restoration and Monetary Compensation the Basic Framework
▲ On the Japanese side
An estimated 200 thousand women were mobilized by the Japanese Army as comfort women during World War II.
The UN adopted reports by the Human Rights Committee on two occasions in 1996 and 1998 pronouncing that the responsibility of restoring the victims’ honor and providing legal compensation lies with the Japanese government.
Herein lies the starting point of the Japanese women legislators’ perception of the issue.
According to legislator Yoshikawa, “The issue of comfort women became known in Japan relatively late, in the 1990s, and Diet members have been preparing for legislation to address the issue since 1998. The Japanese government is ignoring the international society’s recommendations to be responsible for compensation, thus the need for concerted efforts by the countries of the victims.”
The ‘Sexual Victim Bill,’ first made in September 2000, has been repeatedly shelved due to the Japanese government’s refusal to deal with it. It was brought up again early this year thanks to a joint proposal by opposition party members.
The Bill basically states that the responsibility for compensating the victims lies with the Japanese government, and proposes a committee to deal with the comfort women issue headed by the Prime Minister.
In particular, the Bill states that in case of the establishment of an investigation team, compensation will not begin after the investigations but occur concurrently with investigations, thus winning the approval of civic groups in Japan.
Says legislator Tajima, “Women legislators in Indonesia and the Philippines have published resolutions at the congress level to pressure the Japanese government. It will be hard for the Japanese government to put off issue if the Korean legislators also showed more interest.”
Tajima also added, “It would be good if president-elect Roh Moo-Hyun mentioned the legislation of the Bill in his meeting with Prime Minister Koizumi.”
▲ On the Korean Women’s Committee’s side
In response to the Japanese legislators’ request, committee president Lim Jin Chul said, “Compensation and honor restoration is an urgent matter, as most of the victims are facing impending death from old age. The Women’s Committee will adopt the required resolution.”
Consequently, the Women’s Committee will be holding a general meeting on February 17 to adopt a resolution urging the Japanese government to legislate the ‘Bill to promote the resolution of the issue of sexual victims of war.’
The resolution also urges the Japanese government to admit that sexual slavery is a crime against humanity by international laws, and to reflect the truth in history textbooks so that the lesson can be passed on to future generations.
▲ Contents of the Bill
The Bill states that the Japanese government “apologize for dishonoring the victims of sexual slavery as soon as possible” and “take measures to restore the victims’ honor, including monetary compensation.” The Bill also mentions that the Japanese government consults the governments of the victims.
The Bill provides for a committee to promote the resolution of the issue of war sexual victims, to be placed within the Cabinet and headed by the Prime Minister. The Bill also stipulates that an investigation team be established to take charge of status surveys and compensation.