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Record proves Japan’s ‘comfort women’ crime

Apr 18,2017
A Japanese war crimes record, submitted to the Japanese Cabinet Secretariat earlier this year, has brought to light a testimony by a former Japanese navy official about taking some 200 so-called comfort women, or former sex slaves for the Japanese military during World War II, to Bali, Indonesia.

“We brought about 200 women and girls as comfort women to Bali under the orders of the Okuyama unit,” a former Japanese navy official said, whose statement is included in the copies of 182 documents on 19 cases submitted by the National Archives of Japan and the Japanese Ministry of Justice to the Japanese Cabinet Secretariat earlier this year, the Kyodo News reported on Monday.

The documents on the 19 cases, including “Batavia Trial No. 25 Case,” which includes the official’s statement, are records of the Tokyo Tribunal and trials on Class-B (war crimes in general) and Class-C (crimes against humanity) war criminals.

The records have been kept by the Japanese Ministry of Justice from 1999, and their copies were submitted to the Cabinet Secretariat recently under requests from local civic groups and scholars that they must be examined by the government in its ongoing investigation into the comfort women issue.

Since the investigation commenced in 1991, the Cabinet Secretariat has received records on 317 cases.

“No description showing anyone being forcibly carried away has been found,” the Japanese Cabinet Secretariat said in an interview with the local paper.

But according to Kyodo, a ruling in “Pontianak Trial No. 13 Case” reads, “many women were violently threatened and forced.”

Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese troops during World War II.

In a landmark deal reached between Japan and Korea on Dec. 28, 2015, Tokyo apologized and agreed to provide 1 billion yen ($9.2 million) to create a foundation aimed at helping the victims. They also agreed to resolve the rift over the wartime atrocity “once and for all,” and Seoul agreed to address the issue of a comfort woman statue placed in front of the Japanese Embassy.

But a second statue was installed in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan, and the Japanese ambassador to Korea, Yasumasa Nagamine, was subsequently recalled in January. Nagamine returned to Seoul earlier this month. There are 38 surviving South Korean victims, most of them in their late 80s.

One of them, Lee Ok-seon, 90, will be speaking on Thursday at Shanghai American School, a non-profit international school in Shanghai. Lee was invited by the students to speak in classrooms and at the auditorium.

“Lee decided to raise awareness about the issue for international students,” said Ahn Shin-gwon, head of a community center in Gwangju, Gyeonggi, where 10 former comfort women, including Lee, are residing. “She will be one of the speakers invited for a school event about various issues around the world. The location also has a meaning because Lee was forcibly taken to China [Jilin Province] when she was 15 years old.”

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]