Re: Appeal Letter regarding the Agreement between the Governments of Korea and Japan on the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan
Dear Mr. Secretary General Ban,
As you are already aware, the Agreement on the issue of military sexual slavery by Japan (“comfort women”) was made between the Korean and Japanese governments recently on 28th December 2015. Various international media companies reported that the issue was resolved simply based on the governments’ announcement, and you have expressed your welcoming message. However, the “comfort women” survivors were severely disappointed by the Agreement, and they expressed that they cannot accept this as an apology from the Japanese government.
Until the Agreement was made, the survivors had not heard any explanation. The two governments did not make any effort to take the input and opinions of the survivors into account. The Agreement, which deliberately left the victims out hence cannot be accepted by them, states that it will be a “final, irreversible” settlement of the issues. It does not follow any human rights principles of the UN and the international community which emphasizes victim-centered approaches, therefore the survivors are in great disappointment and despair.
Although the Japanese government stated that it “feels its responsibilities,” it neither mentioned any specifics on its crimes nor admitted that it was a systematic crime led by the state. Hence, there was no acceptance and commitment on Japanese government’s legal responsibilities. Moreover, the apology, made by Mr. Abe as the representative of the cabinet, was not made directly by the Prime Minister to the victims who have been waiting for a sincere apology for a very long time. The survivors consider that Mr. Abe should at least have directly expressed the apology.
The right direction for the resolution of the military sexual slavery issue begins with Japanese government’s clear and official admission of its criminal act and apology. The following legal reparations, prevention efforts and fact-based history education are not an option but an obligation for a rightful resolution based on principles and common sense. You must be aware of the fact that UN Special Rapporteurs and most human rights bodies within UN have reported their research results on the criminal nature and following recommendations.
After the Agreement, Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida clearly stated that the funding for the foundation is not a reparation for the survivors, and the Prime Minister mentioned he will not express any more apologies. Such statement shows that why this agreement is not a resolution for the military sexual slavery issue.
The Japanese government is passing its responsibilities to the victim government, although it should lead the truth seeking process and other follow-up initiatives as the perpetrator of the crime of sexual slavery. It even demanded the removal of the Peace Monument in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, which is a symbol of the 24 years of peaceful resistance by the victims and the citizens for the resolution of the “comfort women” issue. The Korean government even agreed that it will limit its criticism towards Japan. This only means that the governments will not commit to their responsibilities to prevent occurring of such tragedy again, although they should learn from the past and do their best for prevention efforts. Such agreement made in haste without seeking input from the survivors is simply unjust.
Since the coming out of the first survivor, Ms. Hak-soon Kim in 1991, many survivors who had been silent for decades came out to the world courageously to testify the tragic history. The struggle has lasted for 24 years since then, and the survivors’ persistent demand has been the Japanese government’s commitment to legal responsibilities in order to recover their honor and human rights. Survivors and civil society organizations of many countries have adopted realistic, achievable recommendations for Japanese government in the 12th Asian Solidary Conference in Tokyo in 2014. However, the recommendations were ignored in this Agreement between the governments.
Until now, the governments of Korea and Japan have not put in any sincere efforts for explanation and understanding from the survivors on the Agreement. It is indeed very disappointing and depressing for the elderly survivors who do not have much time left. The civil society organizations of Korea, Japan and other countries who have worked very closely with the victims, along with the victims, cannot accept the unjust Agreement. They are initiating various activities to demand repeal of the Agreement and the rightful resolution of the military sexual slavery issue.
We urge the United Nation’s support and interest for the rightful resolution of the issue by paying attention to the voices of the survivors and citizens, who sincerely would like to finish their long, difficult struggles the soonest.
The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan
Recommendations to the Government of Japan for Resolution of the Japanese Military “Comfort Women” Issue
Statements from the Korean survivors on the Agreement (from interviews)