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The following article is provided courtesy of the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. You may copy and distribute this article freely online, but please leave this header attached. For information on subscriptions or back issues, please contact: Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 3693 South Bay Bluffs Drive Cedar, MI 49621 USA Phone/fax: 231-228-7116 E-mail: [email protected]

"Comfort Women"
A Call for Action
Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars,
vol. 26, no. 4, Oct.-Dec. 1994

We, the Korean Women's Group and the Japanese Women's Initiative in Berlin, have organized an international conference and collected signatures in Support of ex-"comfort women" who have filed lawsuits against the Japanese government demanding individual compensation for their suffering. It has been three years since the first lawsuit was filed, but because of the slowness of the Japanese legal system there has been no significant progress. We are now organizing a letter drive to put pressure on the Japanese government.
More than 200,000 so-called comfort women were forcibly recruited, initially from then-colonized Korea and later from other Asian countries occupied by the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War (1937-45). They were imprisoned in military brothels on various fronts and military bases, and in some cases forced to serve up to forty to fifty soldiers daily. Those who resisted were tortured or killed, and those who became sick were abandoned. At the end of the war many were killed to conceal their existence. This atrocious systematic rape by the Japanese military must be seen as an authentic war crime.

Although the present Japanese government has acknowledged the involvement of the Japanese military, it has conducted only minimal investigations, and the last few prime ministers have done no more than express their regrets. Moreover, the Japanese government has refused to compensate individual victims, stating that the issue of compensation and reparation has already been settled with agreements between Japan and some Asian nations. In August 1992 the UN Human Rights Commission decided to undertake an inquiry into this issue, and on 22 November 1994 the International Commission of Jurists(ICJ) released its report on comfort women. This states that the present Japanese government has a legal responsibility and obligation to compensate the victims. It recommends that the Japanese government establish an administrative forum to process the claims of the victims and, among other steps, pay US $40,000 for the rehabilitation of each woman as a purely interim measure.

Despite these reports and recommendations, the Japanese government is trying to avoid taking full responsibility. In August 1994 it announced a plan for a "consolation money" scheme, in which the government would set up a nongovernment agency to collect donations from the general public to give as a "consolation" gift to the victims. This "act of good will" is nothing but the government's attempt to obscure its responsibility and to bring a quick end to this issue before the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the World War II.

The victims are getting very old. Since 1991 five Korean and three Filipina victims have died and many have health problems resulting from their experience as "comfort women." Moreover, many of them are having financial difficulties and cannot wait for court cases that may take up to ten years to resolve. Therefore we ask you to urge the Japanese government to accept the ICJ's recommendation to take immediate action to compensate the victims. Unfortunately pressure from overseas seems to be the only way to move the Japanese government to action. We attach an example of the kind of letter that might be sent to the prime minister of Japan. We would also like to ask you to print the letter in your newsletter or bulletin so that individual members of your organization can take part in this letter action. Please let us know if you send a letter to the prime minister.

Thank you very much for your cooperation,

Korean Women's Group Berlin
c/o Pak Jai-sin
Eschershauser Weg 23F D-14163,
Berlin, Germany

Japanese Women's Initiative Berlin
c/o Kazuko Hamada-Ritter
Grimmstr. 18, 10967
Berlin, Germany
(phone, 030-694-5677;
and fax, 030-694-5275)


Sample Letter

Prime Minister Murayama Tomichi
Prime Minister's Official Residence
3-1 Nagatacho, 2-chome, Chiyodaku
Tokyo 100, Japan
Subject: Individual compensation for ex-"comfort women" (victims of the Japanese military sex slavery).

Dear Prime Minister Murayama Tomichi,


We have read the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) report on so-called "comfort women" and have decided to write on behalf of the victims. From the report it is evident that the Japanese military systematically abducted, raped, and tortured many women and deprived them of their dignity as human beings. This is a crime against humanity and a war crime against innocent civilians.
It is also clear from the report that the Japanese government at that time had full knowledge of this crime, and thus responsibility should be accepted by the present government. The ICJ report states that reparations agreements between Japan and the Republic of Korea and the Philippines should not be interpreted as having settled the issue of individual compensation and should not present an impediment to the women's claim against Japan. The present Japanese government has already expressed its regret. However, compensation of the individual victims has been flatly refused. In order to be taken as sincere, a formal apology should be accompanied by appropriate compensation measures.

The victims are getting very old, and their financial situations as well as health are poor. They need to be compensated right now. We urge you to listen to the cries of these women and take immediate action as recommended by the ICJ to fully compensate the individual victims.


Sincerely,

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