Japan to Amend 1993 Apology for Comfort Women

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By Athena Yenko | February 25, 2014 4:59 PM EST

Historical accounts claimed that there had been 200,000 women from Korea, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Australia and the Netherlands who were coerced to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese army.

In 1993, testimonies from 16 Korean women moved then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono to make a landmark apology, acknowledging Japan's responsibility in the forceful servitude of women as sex slaves or comfort women.

Japan's apology of 1993 were characterised with "sincere apologies and remorse."

"Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women." - Aug 4, 1993, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yōhei Kōno.

However, Japanese politicians had since been dubious, claiming that Japanese army had no direct responsibility to the alleged coercion and that these women had willingly worked as common prostitutes.

On Saturday, a weekend opinion poll asking respondents if the 1993 apology should be revised was held by the nationalistic Sankei Shimbun daily and Fuji TV. The survey resulted with 59 per cent of those asked agreed that the apology should be amended.

The issue was heightened by Katsuto Momii, the new head of Japan's national broadcaster NHK when she made the controversial remark that sex slavery was acceptable during those times. She said that it was only the moral values at present time which made the slavery immoral.

As a result of all these wavering among Japanese, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed Tuesday that indeed the 1993 Kono Statement should be amended.

 "The testimonies of comfort women were taken on the premise of their being closed-door sessions. The government will consider whether there can be a revision while preserving the confidence in which they were given, Mr Suga told AFP.

Former deputy chief cabinet secretary, Nobuo Ishihara, who had an important part in writing the 1993 Kono Statement, admitted that Japan did not conduct verifications about the statements made by the 16 Korean women.

 "There were no materials that directly substantiate forcible recruitments by the Japanese government or by the military, but considering their testimonies we could not deny there was that sort of conduct among recruiters," Mr Ishihara said.

Mr Ishihara said the statement of 1993 was only made to smoothen the relationship between Japanese and South Korea back then. However, this resulted to Japan's feeling that Korea had use the issue as leverage against Japan.

Speaking with The Sydney Morning Herald from her Adelaide home, Japanese victim Jan Ruff-O'Herne expressed disgust about Japan's plan of revising the apology.

''When such a terrible thing happens, you expect an apology. It was important for my healing process. It takes a lifetime to get over a thing like that," Ms Ruff-O'Herne said.

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