During the Upper House Budget Committee session on March 26, 2012, a former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was asked a question regarding an expression, “Japanese military sexual slavery,” and he answered, “If you ask me if the expression is correct, I would say there is a huge gap between the term and the fact.” It was an official denial by a Japanese Prime Minister of the nature of the crime, a systematic sexual slavery. Furthermore, on the same day, Noda made a remark regarding a passage on a “comfort women” memorial monument in Palisade Park, New Jersey, which reads, “In memory of the more than 200,000 women and girls who were abducted by the armed forces of the government of Imperial Japan 1930s-1945.” Noda said that “there is no evidence of the statistics nor process” to prove the passage.
Also, on November 4, 2012, a group of Japanese politicians placed a full-page advertisement on the Star-Ledger, a prominent newspaper in New Jersey that “many of the women, in fact, earned incomes far in excess of what were paid to field officers and even generals, and there are many testimonies attesting to the fact that they were treated well.” The list of supporters of the advertisement includes a large number of incumbents including the current Japanese Prime Minister, Abe Shinzo, and twenty-seven members of the Liberal Democratic Party at the time.
From the first term of his Cabinet, Abe has been making official remarks that “there is no evidence to prove there was coercion” and ultimately, re-examined the background of the Kono Statement. On June 20, 2014, the Japanese government submitted a report containing a conclusion that the statement which acknowledged the forced recruitment of “comfort women” was coordinated between the Korean and Japanese government. It reflects Japan’s stance that the Kono statement is a mere product of a political compromise created after prior consultation and coordination between the two countries. Japan stated that it will uphold the Kono Statement; however, it emasculated the statement by re-examining the composition process of it. Regarding the matter, the Korean government expressed regrets a number of times. Also, the US Congressional Research Service report pointed out that Japan’s action was implying that the document was not based solely on historical evidence and said, “critics claimed that the study discredits the apology and gives further proof of Tokyo’s (and specifically Abe’s) revisionist aims.”
The mayor of Osaka Toru Hashimoto also made a statement which stirred up international criticisms during a public press conference on May 13, 2013. He said, “when soldiers are risking their lives by running through storms of bullets, and you want to give these emotionally charged soldiers a rest somewhere, it’s clear that you need a comfort women system.” Furthermore, he argued that the brothels were necessary at the time to maintain discipline in the army and added that other countries’ militaries used prostitutes too.
In April, 2012, a Japanese magazine, the Will, published an article titled, “Korea is a Country that Elects Prostitutes for its Representatives,” in which it called victims of Japan’s military sex slavery prostitutes. However, Japanese politicians and opinion leaders are not restricted from making such remarks, and the Japanese government does not refute them.
In June 2012, a Japanese citizen, Nubuyuki Suzuki, tied a stake which says, “Takeshima is Japanese territory,” to the Peace Monument which symbolize the “comfort women” victims, and he uploaded pictures of it online. Also, the War and Women’s Human Rights Museum, where the victims’ lives and their activism for recovery of human rights are exhibited, was targeted for his attack. Suzuki uploaded a video criticizing the museum as a “prostitutes’ museum,” and put up posters on the museum wall which read, “comfort women = Stop lying you were sex slaves!” Furthermore, in May 2015, he sent insulting replicas of the Peace Monument and stakes to two shelters for the survivors. Also, in March 2015, a Japanese rock band sent a music CD to the shelter along with a piece of paper with Korean translation of the lyric about “killing prostitute grannys.” Furthermore, a Japanese designer created a provocative replica of the Peace Monument and named it “Sexy Lady” and uploaded the pictures of it and argued that “the South Korean government says fake story to demean Japan (Appendix 1. Image of “Sexy Lady”).” All these are truly shocking sexual violence against the survivors.
These strings of events have occurred because the Japanese government has not clearly admitted the criminality of the issue and its state responsibilities, issue an official apology, and taken legal responsibilities. Furthermore, these series of direct violent acts towards the victims are expanding as the result of the country’s inappropriate public education which distorts the history and omits the truth regarding the “comfort women” issue, and it also is an outcome of the government not regulating absurd remarks made by its public figures.
In the end, Japan’s responses and actions regarding the “comfort women” issue resulted in an unjust agreement that is unacceptable by the victims.