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Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on "Comfort Women" be Resolved?

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Abstract

About 80 percent of the estimated 70.000-200.000 comfort women Japan took by coercion from 1932-1945 were Korean. The Japanese government claims that the 1965 Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Normalization Treaty is the authority to support its argument that the comfort women do not have a claim at international law but they were not even mentioned in it. The issue was long neglected for pragmatic reasons. When Korean women raised the issue around 1990 and the former comfort woman Kim Hak-sun came out in 1991, it emerged as a point of dispute. Japan has given no official apology to the victims. Museums in Seoul and Tokyo focus on victims' sufferings enhancing understanding. The feeling of guilt regarding an unresolved issue should be enhanced among visitors. Only time will tell if the 70th anniversary of World War II and the 50th anniversary of the Normalization Treaty in 2015 will become an opportunity to resolve the issue.
Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on
”Comfort Women” be Resolved?*
Gabriel Jonsson**
About 80 percent of the estimated 70.000-200.000 comfort women
Japan took by coercion from 1932-1945 were Korean. The Japanese
government claims that the 1965 Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK)
Normalization Treaty is the authority to support its argument that
the com-fort women do not have a claim at international law but
they were not even mentioned in it.
The issue was long neglected for pragmatic reasons. When
Korean women raised the issue around 1990 and the former com-
fort woman Kim Hak-sun came out in 1991, it emerged as a point
of dispute. Japan has given no official apology to the victims.
Museums in Seoul and Tokyo focus on victims’ sufferings
enhancing understanding. The feeling of guilt regarding an unre-
solved issue should be enhanced among visitors. Only time will tell
if the 70th anniversary of World War II and the 50th anniversary of
1
** The author wants to thank Åke Wibergs stiftelse [Foundation] for financial support
for research visits to Japan and South Korea in summer 2014.
** Gabriel Jonsson is lecturer in Korean Studies at Stockholm University, Department
of Middle East, Turkey and East Asian Studies where he received his PhD in
Korean Studies in 1996. He also has a BA in East Asian Studies with a major in
Korean Language from Stockholm University in 1987. His research focus is on
inter-Korean relations and South Korean politics. He published Towards Korean
Reconciliation: Socio-Cultural Exchanges and Cooperation (Hampshire: Ashgate
Publishing Ltd., 2006), Peacekeeping in the Korean Peninsula: The Role of Commis-
sions (Seoul: Korea Institute for National Unification, 2009) and Consolidation of
Democracy in South Korea (Stockholm: Stockholm Oriental Studies 21, 2014). He
is a regular visitor to South Korea. E-mail: Gabriel.Jonsson@orient.su.se.
KOREA OBSERVER, Vol. 46, No. 3, Autumn 2015, pp. 00-00.
© 2015 by THE INSTITUTE OF KOREAN STUDIES.
pares how museums in Japan and Korea pre-sent the issue and inves-
tigates whether they could contribute to resolve it or not. The author
has found no study analyzing and comparing contents of The War
and Women’s Human Rights Museum in Seoul and The Women’s
Active Museum on War and Peace in Tokyo. Sig-nificantly, the muse-
ums differ from other means to resolve the comfort women issue in
one important respect: they visualize past history and display a vast
amount of information at one place. What impact could such a strength
have on resolving the issue?
Museums are important as educational institutions giving them
authority. On the basis of their physical structures and authority, they
offer opportunities for groups to institutionalize their narratives in a
way that other media cannot provide. A museum is a place to exercise
po-wer since as statements of position a museum both illuminate and
omit. A museum asserts va-lues and makes attempts at legitimization
that can be contested. The concept of performativity that refers to “...
the rather general quality something might have by being a virtue of
perfor-mance” is applied (data on the role of museums are from
Gustafsson, 2011: 48. “Performativi-ty” is from Loxley, 2007: 140). By
analyzing the two museums, three specific issues that in-clude the
relations between perpetrators and victims are investigated: How is
the issue presen-ted? What interpretations can be drawn from the pre-
sentations? Can the interpretations affect the countries’ policies on the
comfort women issue and contribute to a solution?
II. The Emergence and Early Development
of the Comfort Women Issue
Estimations of the number of comfort women range from 70.000
to 200.000. About 80 per-cent were Korean but women from Japan
(mainly former professional prostitutes), China, Tai-wan, the Philip-
pines, Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, East Timor,
India, Guam and the Netherlands were also victims. One reason why
the majority was Korean wo-men is that they resemble Japanese
Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on “Comfort Women” be Resolved? 3
the Normalization Treaty in 2015 will become an opportunity to
resolve the issue.
Key Words: Comfort women, Japan, Republic of Korea, War and
Women’s Human Rights Museum, Women’s Active
Museum on War and Peace
I. Introduction
The Korea Times (2014) labels the comfort women (wianbu) issue the
“biggest diplomatic dispute” between Japan and Korea. In late March
2014, only 55 Korean survivors were alive. Their average age is 88
(The Korea Times, March 29, April 18, 2014).
With this background, the purpose of this study is to investigate
how the issue can be resolved through an analysis of how it emerged,
how it has been dealt with after 1945 by suc-cessive Japanese and
Korean governments and how museums in the two countries present
the issue. In order to find a solution, the study includes women’s
activism in both countries, government-level contacts, Japan’s estab-
lishment of the Asia Women’s Fund and Korea’s efforts to resolve
the issue through the United Nations Human Rights Commission
(UNHRC). References are made in particular to the 1965 Japan-Korea
Normalization Treaty. Since the issue began to receive public atten-
tion in the 1990s, focus is put on subsequent developments.
There is a vast and growing literature on the comfort women
issue that deals with it from legal, social and gender aspects as well as
from the point of reaching diplomatic solutions on a political level.
Suggestions have been made by activists and scholars on how to
reach a solu-tion through legal and diplomatic means. Consequently,
legal and diplomatic aspects are inve-stigated in order to find out
whether a diplomatic solution is possible or not. However, in order to
find a new angle to reach a solution supplementing legal and diplo-
matic means the study in relatively more detail analyzes and com-
2 Gabriel Jonsson
home were too withdrawn and feared ostracisation from society and
their families. If any of the former comfort women had publicly
exposed their experiences they would not have received sympathy
but would have been criticized and seen as a humilia-tion to their
family. The Japanese government as well as the public was silent
since, if the comfort women issue would become known worldwide,
it would become a new post-war issue to handle in Japanese-Korean
relations (author’s visits to the Museum of Sexual Sla-very by the
Japanese Military, June 28, 2014 and the War and Women’s Human
Rights Mu-seum, July 3, 2014; Coomaraswamy, 1996: 4; McDougall,
1998: 39-40; Pak, 2014: 61-2; Raymond, Mathur and Roman, 2003: 41,
46, 54; Soh, 1996: 1226-7, 1228, 1230, 1231-2; Women’s Active Museum
on War and Peace (WAM), 2009; Yoon, 2010: 47-8, 50, 82-3).
Since the Korean society was not ready to warmly protect the
women, they received another wound. President Syngman Rhee
(1948-1960) pursued an anti-Japanese foreign policy hindering inter-
action but for President Park Chung Hee (1963-1979) Japan was a
model to be emulated. Following talks that began in 1951, a Normal-
ization Treaty was signed in 1965 showing that economic matters
were far more important for the Korean government than the comfort
women issue that it avoided. Although a cooperative relationship
developed, the emotional conflict between the countries continued to
exist. The contents of the treaty are the authority that Japan cites to
support its argument that the comfort women do not have a claim at
international law, but they were not even mentioned in it.
Also the slow social and political development of Korean society
following the Korean War caused the delay until 1990 to deal with the
comfort women issue hindering a solution. The issue became known
thanks to the formation in the mid-1970s in Japan of the Asia Women’s
Association and its examination of the history of prostitution that
came to include comfort women. When women activists finally raised
the comfort women issue, the Korean government initially ignored
them. The ostensible reason was the lack of documentary evidence on
which to press charges against Japan, since the Japanese government
had destroyed most of the records relating to comfort women. In
Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on “Comfort Women” be Resolved? 5
women. In Korea, systematic and often coercive recruit-ment of the
majority of the former comfort women by the Japanese forces took
place under the banner of the Chôngsindae (“Voluntary Labor Service
Corps”) but also Koreans were in-volved in the business. The Chôngsindae
was ostensibly established to procure women for work in factories or
to perform other war-related duties to assist the Japanese army but
instead many women were deceived into serving as military sexual
slaves.
The ostensible purpose of the comfort women system was to lift
the morale of Japanese sol-diers, reduce the spread of venereal disease
(comfort women were regularly checked) and to reduce the frequency
of rape committed by Japanese soldiers. The soldiers suffered from
stress at the battle-front and frequent rapes created anti-Japanese feel-
ings in occupied areas. Since the Japanese military took the women
abroad, the women became weaker by not having social acquain-
tances and not knowing the language. Military “comfort stations”
were in place by early 1932 at the latest. Japan began to draft Korean
women in full force from around 1937 when its army invaded China.
For more than four decades after World War II, none of the affected
nations in Asia officially raised issues regarding the war-time sexual
abuse of their women by the Japanese military. Since the political and
economic situation in Korea was ex-tremely unstable after World War
II and the Korean War (1950-1953), other issues were more important
than the comfort women, although the government knew about them.
Such a situa-tion hindered a solution of the issue. A common opinion
is that the Korean government is responsible for not having raised the
issue for four decades. The issue is now widely known among the
Korean public, although they do not know about it in detail.
At the end of World War II, many comfort women were killed,
abandoned or forced to commit suicide. There are estimates that only
about one-quarter and one-third, respectively, of all comfort women
survived their hardships but the numbers cannot be verified. The sur-
vivors were saved by the allied forces upon Japan’s defeat in the war.
Since the Confucian Korean society emphasized chastity and associated
any kind of sexual defilement with promiscuity, women who returned
4 Gabriel Jonsson
the 1965 Normalization Treaty. Previously, on November 16, 1990 37
women organizations jointly formed the Korean Council for the Women
Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (KCWS, Chôngdaehyôp).
The purpose was to investigate and make public the comfort women
issue, to request the Japanese government to meet six demands and
prevent reoccurrence of the tragic history. The demands were to: 1) open
materials to the public and investigate the real situation, 2) admit the
crimes, 3) provide an official apology, 4) give legal reparations, 5) erect
memorial tablets and build a historic museum and 6) record the issue
in history textbooks and teach it. Since the KCWS did not regard
giving legal reparations only as a question of providing money to the
victims, it added in 1993 punishment of the perpetrators. The width of
the demands implies that a solution was considered urgent.
On August 14, 1991 widow Kim Hak-sun (1924-1997) became the
first woman to publically testify her life as a comfort woman for
Japanese troops during the Pacific War. She had got angry from the
Japanese government’s response in June 1990 and the Japanese
Embassy’s reply in April 1991 to an open letter sent by the KCWS in
March demanding an apology. The government’s investigation
showed that there was no evidence of the forced drafting of Korean
women as comfort women. No apology could be provided. Kim was
kidnapped in Beijing at the age of 17 and was drawn to a sub-unit of
the Japanese Army with more than 300 soldiers. Later, when the
KCWS demanded that the Korean government establish a policy to
support the comfort women, it ignored the demand but made a
request to the Japanese government to investigate the issue (author’s
visit to the War and Women’s Human Rights Museum, June 11, 2014;
Chaeil chosônin wianbu chaep’an-ûl chiwônhanûn moim, 2011: 90;
Han’guk chôngsindae munje taech’aek hyôbûihoe, 2014: 48-9, 54, 73,
392; Park, 2000: 201; Pilzer, 2012: 35; Raymond, Mathur and Roman,
2003: 49, 50-51; Soh, 1996: 1226, 1232, 1233; Yoon, 2010: 117-118, 124-5;
Yoon, 2013: 41, 43, 44).
In January 1992, historian Yoshimi Yoshiaki discovered in the
Self Defence Ministry’s archives government documents establishing
the direct role of the Japanese military in maintaining the comfort
Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on “Comfort Women” be Resolved? 7
addition, the 1965 Normalization Treaty foreclosed the Korean govern-
ment from making any further claims for reparations for damages
incurred during the colonial period. The Korean government aban-
doned citizens’ rights too easily. The patriarchal culture context of
androcentric sexism and traditional elitist attitudes in dealing with
social injustice inflicted upon the poor and powerless in the Korean
socie-ty are other explanations of the government’s inactivity on the
issue (Raymond, Mathur and Roman, 2003: 46, 47-9, 54; Soh, 1996:
1230-1231; Yoon, 2010: 82, 183).
III. Rise in Activities in the 1990s
From 1988 the Korean Church Women’s Alliance formed by
former Ehwa Woman’s Univer-sity Professor Yun Chung-ok pursued
the comfort women issue. The democratization of Korea in 1987
enabled her and her colleague Professor Lee Hyo-chae to make the
issue public. Prior to the state visit by President Roh Tae Woo (1988-
1993) to Japan in May 1990, on May 22 the Korean Church Women’s
Alliance requested, along with the National Female College Students’
Representative Council and the Korean Women’s Association United,
for the first time the demand for Japan to investigate the comfort
women issue, to apologize for its involvement and to provide com-
pensation to be conveyed. On May 25, President Roh requested a list
of the comfort women but the Japanese government responded that
there was no such list. However, during a state banquet for President
Roh, Emperor Akihito (1989-) formally expressed his regrets for the
sufferings the Japanese colonial rule had caused for the Korean people.
When Councillor Motooka Shoji of the upper house of the Japanese
parliament demanded on June 6, 1990 that the government investigate
the comfort women issue it refused and maintained its official posi-
tion to regard military comfort stations as private enterprise. When he
again raised the comfort women issue in the parliament in April 1991,
the government repeated that it was not involved and that all issues
emanating from the Japanese occupation had been resolved through
6 Gabriel Jonsson
prohibition against slavery was not international law at the time of
World War II, 3) that acts of rape in international conflict were not
prohibited by international law when World War II raged and 4) that
the laws of war would only apply to conduct committed by the Japan-
ese military against nationals of a belligerent state but not Korea since
it had been annexed. In June 1998, the UN special rapporteur Ameri-
can Gay J. McDougall presented her final report at the UNHRC and
concluded that the Japanese Army had violated the prohibition
against slavery and war crimes and that these were crimes against
humanity.1It recommended that the Japanese government should
punish the responsible and pay compensation to the victims. When
the UNHRC adopted the report in August 1998, the comfort stations
were defined as rape stations (Coomaraswamy, 1996: 1, 24; Gustafs-
son, 2011: 156; Han’guk chôngsindae munje taech’aek hyôbûihoe,
2014: 102, 394; Kawada, 2011: 332; Maeda, 2011: 755, 756; McDougall,
1998: 1, 39; Park, 2000: 201; Yoon, 2010: 17, 51, 119-120).
IV. The Role of the Japanese Government
A major issue in the public debate in both Korea and Japan on
the comfort women has been the official role and responsibility of the
Japanese government. Not until mid-1992 did the Japanese state
admit its role in the management and supervisions of the “comfort
stations” several months after Professor Yoshimi had published his
discovery of official documents confirming the state’s heavy involve-
ment in the comfort women system. It was conceived, planned and
supervised by the Supreme Headquarters of the Japanese Imperial
Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on “Comfort Women” be Resolved? 9
stations that were published in the Asahi Shimbun. On January 8, 1992
the weekly Wednesday noon demonstration organized by the KCWS
together with the comfort women in front of the Japanese Embassy in
Seoul began on the occasion of Prime Minister Miyazawa Kiichi’s visit
reconfirming that a solution was considered urgent. On January 17, a
private apology that recognized the military involvement and coer-
cion as well as human rights violations was made by him. However,
as argued by the Standing Representative of the KCWS, Yoon Mee-
hyang (2010: 51), through the vague formulations on who exerted
coercion and committed human rights violations the Japanese govern-
ment escaped from its responsibility. The government denied that it
had established the comfort women system, recruited the women and
operated the comfort stations. Later, Cabinet Chief Secretary Kato
Koichi issued a general apology to comfort women regardless of their
nationality.
Besides diplomacy, also the UN became involved in the work to
resolve the comfort women issue. On February 6, 1996 the UN con-
demned Japan for forcing tens of thousands of women into sexual
slavery for its imperial troops during World War II. The UN special
rapporteur on violence against women, Radhika Coomaraswamy from
Sri Lanka, had in January 1996 concluded in her report that Japan
should 1) acknowledge that the establishment of comfort stations was
a violation of international law and accept legal responsibility for that
violation, 2) pay compensation to the victims, 3) make a full disclo-
sure of documents and materials on the comfort women issue, 4) pub-
licly apologize to the survivors in writing, 5) raise awareness of the
issue by amending educational curricula and 6) identify and punish
the perpetra-tors involved in the recruitment and institutionalization
of comfort stations. The recommendations closely resemble the six
demands the KCWS had consistently made.
Her report was adopted by the UNHRC in April 1996. The comfort
stations were defined as military slavery. In responding to the report,
the Japanese government denied its legal responsibility by claiming 1)
that present international law cannot be applied retroactively, 2) that
slavery does not accurately describe the “comfort stations” and that
8 Gabriel Jonsson
1. Article 6(c) of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal in Nürnberg in
1945 defines crimes against humanity as ”murder, extermination, enslavement,
deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian popula-
tion before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious
grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction
of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country
where perpetrated.” From McDougall, 1998: 33, fn. 23.
that the comfort women were engaged in prostitution voluntarily. The
Japanese government refused to compensate the women by arguing
that the issue had already been legally settled but the issue remained
unresolved.
In March 1993, President Kim Young Sam (1993-1998) announced
that the government to display “moral superiority” would seek no
material compensation from Japan for former comfort women but
would insist that the Japanese government thoroughly investigate the
matter to uncover the truth and make a comprehensive, formal apolo-
gy. The National Assembly passed on May 19, 1993 the Social Securi-
ty Law for the Comfort Women during the Japanese Colonial Rule to
support the former comfort women that included financial support,
food assistance, free medical insurance and renting priority of govern-
ment housing. In August 1993 the government disbursed five million
wôn (about $6.250) to each survivor and announced that it would pay
250.000 wôn in 1995 ($312.5) in additional monthly support in 19954
(Cho, 2014: 1; Han’guk chôngsindae munje taech’aek hyôbûihoe,
2014: 160; Raymond, Mathur and Roman, 2003: 52, 55; Soh, 1996: 1228,
1234-5, 1236, 1239; Totsuka, 2013(a): 3).
President Kim’s gesture seemed to be well received by Tokyo.
Following a direct hearing session in Seoul with former comfort
women, in August 1993 Japan finally recognized in the statement by
Chief Cabinet Secretary Kono Yohei to the UNHRC’s Sub-commission
for the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities
the wartime enslavement of the women while rejecting legal responsi-
bility. The Kono statement admitted that “the Japanese military was,
directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management
of the comfort stations, and the transfer of comfort women ... that, in
many cases they were recruited against their own will.” The govern-
ment of Japan would like to “extend its sincere apologies and remorse
to all those who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical
and psychological wounds as comfort women.”
Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on “Comfort Women” be Resolved? 11
Forces and the government in Tokyo. Since neither the Korean nor the
Japanese government responded positively to efforts to resolve the
problem, the KCWS submitted a petition to the UNHRC, dated
March 4, 1992. It requested the Commission to investigate atrocities
committed against Korean women during World War II and help
pressure the Japanese government to pay reparations to individual
women who had filed lawsuits. Subsequently, the UNHRC placed for
the first time the issue on the official agenda for its meeting in Geneva
in August 1992. Three delegates from the KCWS and one former
comfort woman testified. Partly owing to lobbyism by feminist and
humanitarian activists, the UNCHR’s Sub-commission for the Preven-
tion of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities called the
Japanese “military comfort wo-men” system “a crime against humanity
that violated the human rights of Asian women and the international
agreement prohibiting forced labor that Japan signed in 1932.”2
Also after the Japanese government in 1993 finally admitted coer-
cion in recruiting Korean comfort women, Japan denied any possi-
bility of material compensation to the survivors.3The reason for
denying coercion was that although the drafting of women was made
legal by 1942, female recruitment was nominally implemented on the
basis of “voluntary” participation. Indeed, until 1993 Japan argued
10 Gabriel Jonsson
2. The international agreement referred to is the International Labour Organiza-
tion 29 Forced Labour Convention adopted in 1930 that Japan ratified in 1932.
From Totsuka, 2013(a): 2.
3. The authority for Japan’s position that there is no legal basis for compelling it
to pay compensation to the comfort women for its human rights atrocities is
the 1965 Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning the Property of
Korea. Japan asserts that all claims were resolved between the two nations at
this agreement and are final. Consequently, any claim by the comfort women at
international law is of no force and effect. Japan’s position derives its authority
from Article II of the Agreement stating: “The contracting parties confirm that
the problem Concerning property and interests of the two Contracting Parties
and their nationals (including Juridical persons) and concerning claims between
Contracting parties and their nationals, including those provided for in Article IV
paragraph (a) the Treaty of Peace with Japan signed at the city of San Francisco on
September 8, 1951 is settled completely and finally.” From Raymond, Mathur
and Roman, 2003: 44-5. 4. The sum $312.5 was calculated by the author based on Soh (1996: 1236) recording
that five million wôn was approximately $6,250.
compensation from the state.
The apology in July 1995 by Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi
on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of World War II became the
basis on which the government established the Asian Women’s Fund
the same month. The purpose was “to protect women’s human rights
in Japan and the world.” The Fund would express “... a sense of
national atonement from the Japanese people to the former ‘comfort
women’ and to work to address contemporary issues regarding the
honor and dignity of women.” Prime Minister Murayama noted that
“the scars of war still run deep” and that the problem of the so-called
‘war-time comfort women’ is one such scar, which, with the involve-
ment of the Japanese military forces of the time, seriously stained the
honour and dignity of many women. This is entirely inexcusable. I
offer my profound apology to all those who, as wartime comfort
women, suffered emotional and physical wounds that can never be
closed (McDougall, 1998: 38, 39; Pak, 2014: 66; Soh, 1996: 1236-7; Soh,
2000: 124; Yoon, 2010: 167-8).
The Asian Women’s Fund collected contributions from ordinary
citizens, trade unions, business and workplaces. Japanese newspapers
and TV generally argued that the fund was a disguised measure for
the government to escape from its legal responsibility. However,
minority right-wing opinions claimed that since the comfort women
were ‘prostitutes’ there was no need to compensate them. Like Japanese
media, Korean media and NGO:s, particularly the KCWS and Christian
organizations, strongly opposed the fund arguing that it was a disguised
measure for the Japanese government to escape from its legal responsi-
bility. Since money was collected from the public, it made the govern-
ment’s responsibility vague making the money immoral. The estab-
lishment of the fund contradicted the victims’ hopes for an apology
from the Japanese government, punishment of the responsible and
state compensation restoring their dignity. Many Korean women
requested it to be withdrawn.
However, on January 11, 1997 at a hotel in Seoul payments were
secretly made from the fund to seven victims who accepted the
money since they lived under difficult circumstances but most victims
Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on “Comfort Women” be Resolved? 13
The Japanese Imperial Forces had directly recruited the women
and transported them to comfort stations through coercion in viola-
tion of the International Convention for the Suppression for the White
Slave Traffic that Japan had acceded to in 1925. Japan also admitted
that it had violated international laws by persecuting Korean women
but contended that their establishment was not a war crime or crime
against humanity. Seoul’s response to the Kono statement was that
the comfort women issue was resolved diplomatically and it has since
maintained this principle. However, as suggested by Yoon (2010: 51-2)
through the vague formulations on who exerted coercion and com-
mitted human rights violations the Japanese government again
escaped its responsibility. The main responsibility was put on private
recruiters. The military was only slightly involved. In reality, the
military had ordered recruitments, decided the rules and fees at the
comfort stations and the date of use for each military unit, conducted
the examination of venereal diseases and supervised the stations
(Cho, 2014: p. 1; Park, 2000: 202; Soh, 1996: 1236; Totsuka, 2013(a): 2-3,
6; Williamson, 2013: 2).
While the comfort women issue remain unresolved, in November
1994 the International Commission of Jurists recommended that the
Japanese government pay “as a purely interim measure” $40,000 to
each survivor. Within a week a group of 105 lawyers (37 Korean and
68 Japanese) released a statement that proclaimed the Japanese
government’s responsibility to compensate the former comfort
women based on international laws. The official Japanese response to
the mounting pressure from the international community was to deal
with the compensation issue at the non-governmental level. By
December 1994, Japan had drawn up a compensation plan that called
for raising non-government funds to pay a lump sum to each survivor.
The KCWS rejected the proposal and urged that the Japanese govern-
ment, as perpetrator of the crime, pay the compensation to admit its
legal responsibility. Also 28 Japanese civil organizations urged the
government to withdraw the plan, showing that it was contested also
in Japan. The comfort women wanted an investigation of the reality of
the issue and res-toration of their honor and dignity prior to receiving
12 Gabriel Jonsson
However, considering that Japan at the time was stronger than Korea
which was ruled by President Park who admired Japan, it would have
been virtually impossible to act differently. With regard to resolving
the issue, on August 30, 2011 the Constitutional Court concluded with
a majority of six consenting against three dissenting votes that the
Korean government’s failure to act on the comfort women issue was
unconstitutional. The ruling emphasized the obligation to undertake
dispute settlement procedures defined in Article 3 of the Agreement
on the Settlement Concerning Property and Claims and the Economic
Cooperation between the Republic of Korea and Japan signed on June
27, 1965. On September 15, 2011 the Korean Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade suggested to hold talks to resolve the issues related
to this agreement but Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the
suggestion the same day by reconfirming that all claims had been
resolved by the 1965 Normalization Treaty.
Since the Court decision virtually ordered the Korean govern-
ment to take action, President Lee Myung-bak (2008-2013) forcefully
urged at the summit held on December 18, 2011 that Japan’s Prime
Minister Noda Yoshihiko act to settle the issue: “Genuine courage is
needed to reach a preferential solution of the comfort women issue as a
barrier between our two coun-tries. I hope that you as Prime Minister
immediately take the lead to reach a solution. I expect a high-level
political decision rather than a businesslike conception.”6Previously,
the National Assembly passed on October 8, 2008 a resolution
demanding Japan’s formal apology and full compensation to comfort
women to restore their honor and dignity. From July 2009-March
2013, 55 Korean city councils adopted resolutions urging the Japanese
parliament and the government to officially recognize and apologize
for the comfort women system to restore the women’s honor.
Rather than apologizing, Prime Minister Noda counterattacked
and urged President Lee to remove the bronze statue of a young girl
seated across the road in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. The
legal basis of the demand was the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic
Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on “Comfort Women” be Resolved? 15
have requested direct compensation from the Japanese state. Com-
pensation provided was two million yen ($19.572) whereas medical
services amounted to three million yen ($29.357). The welfare money
was reportedly sent under the name of the ghost company Asia Dialog
to avoid the impression that the Japanese government had paid. A
letter containing an apology from Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro
was conveyed. The Japanese military had severely hurt the honor and
dignity of the Korean women. The seven victims were criticized by
Korean media and NGO:s for having sold their souls for money.
When disbursements of 38 million wôn (approximately $47.500)
per person were made by the Kim Dae-jung administration (1998-
2003) in accordance with a domestic support system, these victims
were excluded but 142 other survivors were paid. The Asian Women’s
Fund was disbanded in March 2007 following coordination with
related countries. The Japanese government has since allocated small
amounts of money to individuals who worked for the fund who then
take the survivors who received “atonement money” to restaurants
etc. NGO:s supporting the victims criticized such measures claiming
that they discriminate the victims not accepting the “atonement
money” and creating other kinds of frictions5(Coomaraswamy, 1996:
13; Onuma, 2008: 30, 66, 77, 90-91, 93-4, 136, 207, 218-219; Pak, 2014:
66, 67; Soh, 2000: 125, 126; WAM, 2013: 4, 11; Yoon, 2010: 168).
V. Is a Solution of the Issue Possible?
The account shows that the parties have failed to reach a diplo-
matic solution not least because Japan since 1990 has not pursued a
consistent policy to resolve the comfort women issue. In retrospect, it
could be asserted that the Korean government should have raised the
issue much earlier and that it is regrettable that it was more important
to develop cooperative relations with Japan than to resolve the issue.
14 Gabriel Jonsson
5. All sums except the last one were calculated by the author based on the yen-
dollar exchange rate on August 10, 2014. 6. Author’s translation of President Lee Myung-bak’s statement.
had taken no tangible action on the comfort women issue, although it
has acknowledged that almost all women were taken by deception or
coercion. Japan is therefore obliged under international law to punish
the perpetrators but no one has been punished. As suggested by the
Japanese scholar Totsuka Etsuro (2013(a): 8), “this non-punishment
should be condemned as one of the worst examples of de facto
impunity in world history.” In contrast, the punishment by the war
crimes tribunal of the Allied Forces was accepted by Japan. In 1948,
the Dutch Military Tribunal implemented the punishment, including
one death sentence, of ten personnel of the Japanese Imperial Forces
who had enslaved 35 Dutch comfort women victims in Indonesia.
Japan thus admitted that actions against the comfort women were
serious offenses that deserved a death penalty when white women
were involved. However, Japan has never acknowledged that the
same crimes against Asian, mainly Korean, comfort women were an
offence. This attitude should be condemned as shameless contempt of
and discrimination against Asian women.
The American-Korean scholar Chunghee Sarah Soh (1996: 1231)
concurs with his opinion by writing that the trials ignored the same
ordeals suffered by Indonesian women. In the author’s view, consid-
ering the 1993 Kono statement and the payments and an excuse from
the Japanese prime minister in 1997 through the Asian Women’s
Fund, the opinion is not entirely correct but the two acts were not as
explicit acknowledgements as the punishment in 1948 was undermin-
ing their significance. Finally, it should be noted that in 2013 Japanese
mass media and education did not fulfill their original tasks but had
continuously distorted repor-ting about the historical understanding
of Japanese-Korean relations. Also, whereas in 1997 following the
1993 Kono statement all nine history textbooks in compulsory educa-
tion included the comfort women issue, only three did in 2002, two in
2006 and none in 2012 (Totsuka, 2013(a): 1, 3, 6, 8; Totsuka, 2013(b):
271; WAM, 2013: 3, 6; Yoon, 2010, 2010: 55).
The opinion of the Japanese NGO Women’s Active Museum on
War and Peace (WAM, 2013) concurs with the views of Raymond,
Mathur and Roman by writing “The fact that the State Party has not
Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on “Comfort Women” be Resolved? 17
Relations. The statue impaired the dignity of Japan’s diplomatic mis-
sions abroad. It was unveiled on December 14, 2011 on the occasion of
the 1000th weekly Wednesday demonstration to commemorate the
20th anniversary of the testimony by Kim Hak-sun. Korea rejected the
demand. Nonetheless, in early 2012 the Japanese Vice Foreign Minis-
ter Sasae Kenichiro proposed a package of solutions that would
involve a letter to the victims by the Japanese premier, a face-to-face
apology by the Japanese ambassador to Korea and financial support
as humanitarian measures. In spite of domestic criticism, Seoul sought
to push ahead with the plan on the condition that Japanese officials
would not publicly disavow the deal. Since Tokyo officials rejected
the demand, the negotiations eventually broke down (Han’guk
chôngsindae munje taech’aek hyôbûihoe, 2014: 213, 259-260; Pak,
2014: 56-7; Shin, 2014: p. 5; Totsuka, 2013(a): 1, 4, 10, fn. 2; WAM, 2013:
4, 17-18, 22, 23).
As argued by the American, Indian and Romanian scholars
Christopher Raymond, Mohita Mathur and Petru Roman (2003: 51-2,
55), the comfort women issue will remain unresolved until Japan
offers an apology and extends or is forced to extend a remedy(ies) for
the horrific human rights violations it committed against the women
during its colonial rule. A remedy should contain an apology to sur-
viving comfort women for their sufferings, an acknowledgement that
the drafting was implemented systematically and forcibly with the
government’s knowledge, a recognition that the purpose was for
sexual slavery and should be regarded as a crime against humanity,
an acceptance of moral and legal responsibility and, finally, an exten-
sion of monetary compensation from the Japanese government. The
similarity to the demands raised by Radhika Coomaraswamy and the
KCWS is striking in spite of the time elapsed.
Anyhow, in 2007 the Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo declared
that there was no evidence to prove that coercion was enforced. At a
parliament session in 2012, the government had retrogressed from the
1993 Kono statement by saying only: “the Government of Japan is
also deeply pained when thinking of the comfort women who experi-
enced immeasurable pain and suffering.” As of January 2013 Japan
16 Gabriel Jonsson
and Women’s Human Rights Museum in Seoul. Preparations had
been made since 2003 without any support from the Korean govern-
ment. In June 2014, the museum had attracted 17.000 visitors. It is an
open space to remember comfort women’s history, educate people
and tackle the Japanese military sexual slavery issue. The museum
presents the issue from the victims’ perspective. It has two floors and
gives a chronological account similar to this study. At the bottom
floor, paintings by comfort women are shown on the wall. Photos of
war zones are exhibited and the footage of the women whose stories
are printed on the entrance ticket can be seen. The visitor can enter a
small and dark space similar to comfort stations to feel isolation and
oppression experienced by the women. The wall in the stairways is
exhibited with photos and messages of some of the women.
On the second floor, the history room exhibits Japanese military
documents reconfirming that the comfort women system was a war
crime committed by the Japanese government and military. Activism
on the issue described above is presented. There is a replica of the
contested bronze statue of a young girl in front of the Japanese Embassy
in Seoul. The floor shows the painful experiences of 26 Korean com-
fort women, one woman each from Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philip-
pines and the Netherlands and their life after the war with photos of
all women. Dates of dead women are inscribed. The case of Kim Hak-
sun is raised. Notably, the term “comfort women” is said to reflect
the position of men towards women and to be used by the Japanese
government to conceal and diminish the military sexual system. In
1995, Radhika Coomaraswamy instead used the term “Military Sexual
Slavery During War” and labeled “comfort stations” “rape centers.”
A video is shown from the Wednesday demonstrations7(Author’s
visit at the War and Women’s Human Rights Museum, June 11, July
3, 2014; Han’guk chôngsindae munje taech’aek hyôbûihoe, 2014: 20;
The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery
by Japan (KCWS), n. d.). The museum is highly informative and
Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on “Comfort Women” be Resolved? 19
yet accepted its legal responsibility for Japan’s military sexual slavery
system is in itself an impediment to redress for the victims who suf-
fered grave human rights violations.” In order to stop further viola-
tions of the survivors’ human rights, the Japanese government should
immediately fully acknowledge historical facts and accept legal
responsibility for the military sexual slavery system. The Japanese
government needs to make an apology that is acceptable for the sur-
vivors, take legislative and administrative measures for compensa-
tion, teach the historical facts concerning the comfort women through
textbooks used in compulsory education and make a clear reference
to the issue in national history museums in order to prevent a reoc-
currence and, finally, refute any denial of facts by politicians and the
media. Previously, from June 2008-March 2013 39 local Japanese
assemblies had passed statements calling on the Japanese government
to resolve the issue by thoroughly investigating the comfort women
system and exerting its honest and sincere efforts to recover victims’
dignity (WAM, 2013: 1, 4-5, 24-5). Although opinions in Japan on how
to apologize are divided, it is from the above account hard to expect
that such a situation would contribute to change the government’s
position
Yoon (2010: 55, 174, 175-6) points out that one reason for Japan’s
failure to recognize its responsibility towards the comfort women is
that right-wing politicians argue that by recognizing the Asia-Pacific
War as a war of invasion, ancestors’ pride would be hurt and it would
be a serious insult to the souls of those killed. Another obstacle is the
movement to inherit the value system from World War II that would
like to amend Article 9 of the “Peace Constitution” prohibiting Japan
to pursue war and only permitting maintenance of self-defense forces.
VI. Museums in Korea and Japan
As we have seen, Japan and Korea have consistently failed to
reach a diplomatic solution of the comfort women issue due to their
incompatible opinions. On May 5, 2012 the KCWS opened the War
18 Gabriel Jonsson
7. Author’s translations of Korean expressions in English are marked with quota-
tion marks.
about 12 of the women, including Kim Hak-sun (Korea 3, Japan 1, the
Philippines 1, Taiwan 1, China 1, the Netherlands 1, Indonesia 1,
Malaysia 1, East Timor 2: both from the Indonesian occupation). A lot
of written materials are available as well as many videos and DVDs.
Two differences are the absence of a space resembling a comfort
station and messages of comfort women on the walls. Another is that
the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal for the Trial of Japanese
Military Sexual Slavery suggested by Yayori Matsui and held in Tokyo
from December 7-12, 2000 to hear the voices of perpetrators, victims and
experts from ten countries on the comfort women issue is presented.
The purpose of the tribunal that took two years to prepare was to ask
the Japanese government to take responsibility for its war crimes.
There were 1.300 participants, among which 390 were victims. Nine
prosecution teams from North and South Korea, China, Japan, the
Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Malaysia, East Timor and the Nether-
lands submitted a country indictment against top Japanese military
and political officials for the injustice of the comfort women system.
The tribunal widely established the truth of the Japanese military
sexual system as a war crime and a crime against humanity. It found
Emperor Hirohito (1926-1989) guilty and responsible for the crimes by
not preventing them. One year later he was declared guilty for his
responsibility to give orders, although most documents on the comfort
women were burnt in order to protect the Emperor. Also nine high
officials and generals were found guilty. The joint final judgment of
the tribunal that was confirmed in 2001 urged the Japanese government
to pay reparations to the victims but it did not respond afterwards
(author’s visit at the WAM, June 18, 19, 2014; Han’guk chôngsindae
munje taech’aek hyôbûihoe, 2014: 20, 415; Kim, 2012: 176; KCWS, n.
d.; Video Juku and VAWW-NET Japan, 2001; WAM, 2010; Yoon:
2013, 46). Also the WAM and particularly its photos of victims con-
cretize the issue enhancing understanding. As its Korean counterpart,
the museum presents a vast amount of data at one place and the staff
can respond to visitors’ inquiries. However, a limitation of both muse-
ums is that since they were established mainly for a domestic audience
the exhibitions are displayed almost exclusively in Japanese or Korean
Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on “Comfort Women” be Resolved? 21
focusing on victims’ sufferings as well as showing a video on the
Wednesday demonstrations concretizes the issue enhancing under-
standing. As no other medium, the museum presents a vast amount
of data at one place. The staff can respond to visitors’ inquiries.
The Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM) in
Tokyo opened on July 31, 2005 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary
of World War II. The number of visitors until May 2014 was 21.000.
The one-plan museum is run by the NGO with the same name. Since
the museum is located within a multi-storey building, it is far less visi-
ble than its Korean counterpart. The WAM holds seminars to enhance
understanding of its exhibitions, makes research on the comfort women
issue and takes action to bring justice to the women and survivors of
military sexual violence throughout the world. Two of its goals are to
apply gender justice to all issues of wartime sexual violence, starting
with the comfort women, and to document experiences of sexual
violence, to probe its causes and to bring its perpetrators to justice.
The idea to establish the museum came from the prominent journalist
and feminist activist Yayori Matsui (1934-2002) whose books and arti-
cles are available here. After her death, a committee was formed and a
campaign was launched to raise funding for establishing a museum
that eventually received no government support but relied entirely on
donations. Whereas many foreign media and the KCWS came when
the museum opened, only Okinawa Media and Asahi Shimbun came
from Japan. In 2007, WAM received the Pax Christi International
Peace Award.
At the entrance, a chronological account spanning the years 1894-
2005 is displayed with photos of comfort stations besides. The data is
similar to that in Seoul but more detailed by recording the date and
place of more historical events and covering a longer time interval.
The issue is presented also here from the victims’ perspectives by
displaying photos of 155 survivors and their names. They are from
the Philippines (70), South Korea (28), China (22), Taiwan (16), North
Korea (7), East Timor (4: two from the Indonesian occupation 1975-
1999), Korean women in Japan (2), Indonesia (2), the Netherlands (2),
Japan (1) and Malaysia (1). More detailed information is recorded
20 Gabriel Jonsson
ment. In sum, the measures taken by Japan show that it is hard to
reach a diplomatic solution. If Japan does not offer an official apology
and extends or is forced to extend a remedy(ies) for the human rights
violations it committed against the comfort women, the issue will be
difficult to resolve. However, one factor that perhaps could contribute
to make Japan offer an official apology and extend remedies is if the
split of domestic opinions on the apology question could contribute to
change the government’s position but only time will tell if such a situ-
ation occurs. This study does not indicate any clear signs that such a
situation is likely to develop.
The strength of the War and Women’s Human Rights Museum
in Seoul and the War and Women’s Human Rights Museum (WAM)
in Tokyo run by solidarity organizations is that they focus on victims’
sufferings reconfirming that violations of their human rights took
place and concretizing the issue. As no other medium, the museums
visualize past history and present a vast amount of data at one place.
Applying the term “performativity” on the presentations, the feeling
of guilt regarding an unresolved issue 70 years after World War II
ended should be enhanced among visitors. Although people knowing
in advance about the issue should already have this insight, a broader
audience could benefit from visiting the museums helping to enhance
public knowledge needed to exert pressure on the governments to act.
However, the low number of visitors indicates that public interest
in the comfort women issue is limited in both countries but particularly
in Japan considering the huge difference in population size. Yet, as the
museums also organize public activities they could by enhancing
public knowledge exert pressure on the governments to resolve the
comfort women issue but the consistent lack of political will to do so
repeatedly noted in this study is hard to overcome. If the museums
could contribute to change such a situation, they can play a meaningful
role to resolve the issue as they both have similar targets.
Only time will tell if the 70th anniversary of World War II and the
50th anniversary of the Japan-Korea Normalization Treaty in 2015 will
become an opportunity to resolve an issue that has infected Japanese-
Korean relations too long, although it has not hampered the develop-
Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on “Comfort Women” be Resolved? 23
reducing their information value for international visitors but at
WAM the personnel speaks English.
VII. Conclusions
Japan took from 1932-1945 an estimated 70.000-200.000 comfort
women from occupied territories, among which about 80 percent
were Korean. The policy was implemented by coercion and violated
international law that Japan had pledged to observe. The recruitment
was also a crime against humanity. The Japanese government claims
that the 1965 Japan-Korea Normalization Treaty is the authority to
support its argument that the comfort women do not have a claim at
international law but they were not even mentioned in it. Since 1965 a
cooperative relationship has developed, but the emotional conflict has
continued to exist.
The comfort women issue was long neglected by both countries
for pragmatic reasons. Comfort women suffered from great difficulties
after 1945 by not being welcomed in the Korean society. Following
efforts by Korean women to raise the comfort women issue around
1990 and the coming-out of the former comfort woman Kim Hak-sun
in 1991, it emerged as a point of dispute. The Korean Council for the
Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (KCWS) founded
in 1990 has made great efforts to resolve the comfort women issue
elevating it both in Korea and abroad. The issue has also been raised
through the UN Human Rights Commission that adopted condemna-
tory resolutions in 1992 and 1996.
Although Japan twice in 1992 and once in 1993 and 1995, respec-
tively, acknowledged that the comfort women system was imple-
mented through coercion, it has neither provided an official apology
to the victims nor given any official monetary compensation. Secret
payments made through the non-public Asian Women’s Fund in 1997
were controversial. An apology from the Japanese prime minister was
also conveyed. Apologies have not satisfied Korea since they did not
explicitly point out the legal responsibility of the Japanese govern-
22 Gabriel Jonsson
Politics 139 (Doctoral Thesis in Political Science at Stockholm
University, 2011).
Han’guk chôngsindae munje taech’aek hyôbûihoe [The Korean Coun-
cil for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by
Japan], Han’guk chôngsindae munje taech’aek hyôbûihoe 20nyônsa
[A 20-year History of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted
for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan] (P’aju: Tosô ch’ulp’an
Hanul, 2014).
Kawada, Humiko, “Chungguk chônbôm kongsulsô-e nat’anan
Ilbongun-ûi sôngp’ongnyôk” [“Sexual Violence by the Japanese
Army in Testimonies of War Crimes in China“], in Ilbon-ûi
chônjaeng ch’aegim charyo sent’ô [The Resource Centre for
Japan’s War Responsibility], Ilbon-ûi kun ‘wianbu’ yôn’gu [A
Study of the Japanese Army’s ‘Comfort Women’] (Seoul: Tong-
buga yôksa chaedan [The Northeast Asia Foundation], 2011).
Trans-lated by Kang, Hye-jông.
Kim, Hee-Kang, “The Comfort Women System and Women’s Interna-
tional Human Rights,” Korea Observer, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Summer
2012.)
Loxley, James, Performativity (London: Routledge, 2007.)
Maeda, Akira, “Yôksa-e tojônhanûn kukche yôndae: Ilbongun sông
noyeje nonûi-ûi tonghyang” [“International Solidarity Challeng-
ing the History: Trends in the Debate on the Sexual Slavery of
the Japanese Military”], in Ilbon-ûi chônjaeng ch’aegim
charyo sent’ô [The Resource Centre for Japan’s War Responsi-
bility], Ilbon-ûi kun ‘wianbu’ yôn’gu [A Study of the Japanese
Army’s ‘Comfort Women’] (Seoul: Tongbuga yôksa chaedan
[The Northeast Asia Foundation], 2011). Translated by Kang,
Hye-jông.
McDougall, Gay J., Systematic Rape, Sexual Slavery and Slavery-like Prac-
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Onuma, Yasuaki, Ilbon-ûn sajoehago sipt’a — Ilbongun ‘wianbu’ munje-
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Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on “Comfort Women” be Resolved? 25
ment of cooperative relations. Presumably, cooperative relations will
remain regardless of whether the comfort women issue is resolved or
not. Although Japan and Korea lived without raising the issue until
the early 1990s, since it then was raised it now needs to be resolved to
heal the wounds of the few comfort women still alive and to help
overcome the emotional conflict between the two countries that has
continued to exist since 1965. Otherwise, victims may have all died
without having their dignity restored long after their human rights
were violated. Tension will remain. The moral responsibility of the
Japanese government to once forever admit its past human rights vio-
lations should be stronger than its wish to preserve honor.
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26 Gabriel Jonsson
... 6 These scholars tend to argue that South Koreans did not accept Japan's apologies because Japanese measures did not satisfy Koreans who insisted that 'the Japanese state had to admit its criminality' 7 more seriously or that the Japanese government should take legal responsibility for the comfort women issue. 8 At first glance, these explanations seem correct. However, more fundamentally, Japanese colonial wounds that have not 'appropriately' healed under the (US-sponsored) South Korea/Japanese post-Cold War alliances are deeply embedded in the comfort women issue between South Korea and Japan. ...
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Extending Pieterse's (1996) tripartite cultural globalization theory consisting of ho-mogenization, hybridization and polarization, the current article outlines a set of exemplifications and justifications of a fourth theoretical underpinning labeled parallelization. The theory implies that at a global scale, crucial events that appear paradoxical or contradictory occur at the same time, such as carbon emissions due to growth-fixated global capitalism, while the causes of carbon emissions lead to greater resilience against the consequences of carbon emissions as wealth accumulates. Other examples discussed are large-scale migration flows which lead to increased segregation in host societies while integration of migrants occur as a parallel process; secularization visa-à-vis the resurgence of religions; clear indications of that the biological component of cognitive abilities decreases due to fertility patterns in many locations around the globe, while the IQ test scores have risen as a consequence of various environmental factors.
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The relationship between South Korea and Japan has been greatly influenced by unresolved historical problems. The main reason for South Korea’s interest in Franco-German reconciliation is that Germany and France have been able to face the pain of their shared past. In their criticism of Japan, most Koreans always refer to the German admission of guilt for Nazi crimes as a model. In view of the Japanese rejection of coming to terms with the past, a new approach must be adopted in South Korea: First the intensification of possible contacts with Japanese society, then a joint search for a long-term political solution to historical conflicts. The institutionalization of Franco-German cooperation, such as with the Franco-German Youth Office, can directly encourage South Koreans to take a further step towards closer and more stable cooperation. The contacts and networks for the cooperation between South Koreans and Japanese should not be disturbed by the politics of memory, but be intensified.
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This paper studies feminist geopolitical practices in South Korea in the context of “comfort women” forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese military around the Second World War. Although there has been a considerable amount of literature penned on the comfort women issue, existing discussions focus largely on the conflict between nationalist and feminist paradigms, while largely minimizing feminist activism and changing gender narratives within Korean society. Therefore, this research aims to expand the field by considering the struggles that comfort women have endured through the lens of feminist geopolitical scholarship. I argue that comfort women activism constitutes a form of feminist geopolitical practice in a way that challenges masculine gender narratives. It has opened up new spaces where comfort women survivors can produce a sense of “survivorhood” and move beyond passivity throughout their lives. The rise of their active voices signals the overturning of traditional patriarchal structures; consequently, along with other forms of activism, these narratives have eventually led to a shift in public attitudes. Unlike how nationalist accounts were dominant in the early 1990s, the increased public attention towards the feminist accounts in the mid-2010s has subsequently increased media coverage of survivors and feminist practices.
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p>The issue of comfort women that has occured since 1932 continues to impact bilateral relations between Japan dan South Korea. Various efforts have been made by two countries to deal with this issue, one of which is the agreement in 2015 that stating the comfort women issue has been completed and this agreement cannot be canceled. Instead of solving the problem, this agreement marked as the beginning of a worsening relation between the two countries. Poor relations led to several implications which then became a new problem to Japan and South Korea relations. This research finds that the comfort women issue has given three implications for the relations between Japan and South Korea. First is the Japan-South Korea Trade War in 2019, second is the withdrawal of South Korea from General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and the last is the boycott of Japanese products conducted by South Korean society. The unresolved issue has affected the economy, national security and the social life of the people of both countries. BAHASA INDONESIA ABSTRAK: Permasalahan comfort women yang terjadi sejak tahun 1932 terus memberikan implikasi yang kuat kepada hubungan bilateral antara Jepang dan Korea Selatan. Berbagai usaha telah dilakukan oleh kedua negara untuk menangani permasalahan ini, dimana salah satunya adalah perjanjian pada tahun 2015 yang menyatakan permasalahan comfort women telah selesai dan perjanjian ini tidak dapat dibatalkan. Bukannya menyelesaikan masalah, perjanjian ini menjadi awal dari hubungan kedua negara yang semakin memburuk. Hubungan yang buruk kemudian menimbulkan beberapa implikasi yang menjadi masalah baru di dalam hubungan Jepang dengan Korea Selatan. Berdasarkan hasil penelitian yang telah dilakukan, ditemukan bahwa permasalahan comfort women memberikan tiga implikasi kepada hubungan Jepang dan Korea Selatan yaitu Perang Dagang Jepang-Korea Selatan 2019, penarikan Korea Selatan dari General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) dan pemboikotan produk Jepang yang dilakukan oleh masyarakat Korea Selatan. Permasalahan comfort women yang tidak kunjung terselesaikan telah mempengaruhi perekonomian, keamanan nasional, hingga kehidupan sosial masyarakat kedua negara.</p
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This is a monograph in a rather early stage. It was mostly written in 2018. I have used some of the ideas for later peer-reviewed articles on Korean culture that have been published, but mostly this is a a book about feminism as I considered it necessary to synthesize the literature in a rather novel way and provide a more balanced account on feminism(s) from a historical and contemporary perspective.
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The primary objective of this paper is to revisit the women's international human rights discourse in an effort to present positive insights into a feminist reconceptualization of human rights. For this purpose, I examine the Final Judgment of the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal for the Trial of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery (hereinafter the Tribunal) and assess the Tribunal's rationale in defining the comfort system as wartime sexual violence. I argue that the Tribunal's determination that the comfort system constituted wartime sexual violence falls short of addressing the full scope of the injustice of the comfort system that was constructed, operated, and maintained under the oppressive structures of patriarchy, colonialism, and imperialism and their interactions. I therefore conclude that the women's international human rights discourse should seriously consider the structural oppression from which individual women suffer and that a feminist reconceptualization of human rights should encompass the injustice of these structures.
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In the wake of the system of sexual slavery for the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War (1930-45), survivors in South Korea lived under great pressure not to speak about what had happened to them, although rumors of the so-called "comfort women" system circulated throughout society. Many of these women reckoned with their experiences and forged senses of self within the opacity of song, which allowed them to express themselves precisely without explicitly divulging their pasts. In the process, they created identities and social worlds from available cultural materials. As they sang, each woman became a certain kind of collector, composer, and performer. In the 1990s a movement arose in South Korea to seek redress from the Japanese government and to tend to the survivors in their old age. Suddenly the women found themselves pulled from the margins of society and thrust into the very center of the public cultural spotlight. But the women continued to sing. They sang songs that told the unwritten histories of their lives, that displayed the identities that they had carved out of a lifetime of struggle and hardship, and that helped them forge and maintain relationships with others. And they sang-often in the most public places-about things that remained unspoken. This book, based on eight years of intermittent fieldwork with survivors in South Korea, is an exercise in listening to three women and their songs across the twentieth century and in their present-day lives.
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International politics always operates and is imagined in a gendered manner, especially in matters related to symbolic gestures and spectacles such as the declaration of war, the ritual of surrender, the signing of treaties, or the offer and acceptance of apologies. Therefore, our reading of these events has to be performed with a sustained and rigorous interest in gender: we need to ask how a masculine national image is constructed and guarded in these rituals; how the conflicts among various forms of masculinity are negotiated; how the 'common sense' derived from these gendered rituals affects the real lives of real people on a daily basis. In this essay, I examine the issues of masculine national identity and gendered violence in the context of the controversy around the apologies offered (or not offered) to former 'comfort women,' women who were forced to serve as sex slaves for the Japanese Imperial Army during the Pacific War. By investigating the 'common sense' and underlying assumptions that shape the language around the issues of apologies and compensation for former comfort women, I explore how 'male sexual needs' are imagined; who is rendered deserving of the state protection and who is not; who is dispensable and who is not. I argue that, unless we rigorously examine the language representing and interpreting this particular part of history, we end up reinscribing violent patriarchal assumptions, which made possible the practice of comfort women in the first place. In those instances, the apology can be the biggest insult to those women who silently bore the burden of their sexuality and their female bodies, which are by definition guilty according to Confucian thoughts, for half a century.
The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan], Han'guk chôngsindae munje taech'aek hyôbûihoe 20nyônsa [A 20-year History of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan] (P'aju: Tosô ch'ulp
  • Han 'guk Chôngsindae Munje
  • Hyôbûihoe
Han'guk chôngsindae munje taech'aek hyôbûihoe [The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan], Han'guk chôngsindae munje taech'aek hyôbûihoe 20nyônsa [A 20-year History of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan] (P'aju: Tosô ch'ulp'an Hanul, 2014).
Sexual Slavery and Slavery-like Practices during Armed Conflict, United Nations
  • Gay J Mcdougall
  • Systematic Rape
McDougall, Gay J., Systematic Rape, Sexual Slavery and Slavery-like Practices during Armed Conflict, United Nations, Economic and Social Council, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1998/13 (June 22, 1998).
Ilbon-ûn sajoehago sipt'a — Ilbongun 'wianbu' munjewa Asia yôsông kigûm [Japan Wants to Apologize — The Japanese Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on
  • Yasuaki Onuma
Onuma, Yasuaki, Ilbon-ûn sajoehago sipt'a — Ilbongun 'wianbu' munjewa Asia yôsông kigûm [Japan Wants to Apologize — The Japanese Can the Japan-Korea Dispute on " Comfort Women " be Resolved? 25
and the Women's Active Museum on War and Peace in Tokyo
References Author's visits to the War and Women's Human Rights Museum in Seoul, June 11 and July 3, 2014, the Museum of Sexual Slavery by the Japanese Military in Kwangju, June 28, 2014 and the Women's Active Museum on War and Peace in Tokyo, June 18 and 19, 2014.