'Comfort women' issue still rankles
Updated: 2013-08-06 06:06
By CHEN JIA (China Daily)
California Congressman Mike Honda and New York Congressman Steve Israel announced on Friday that a provision was included in the current foreign operations appropriations package urging the US Secretary of State to encourage Japan's government to address the issue of Korean and Chinese women who were forced into sexual servitude by the Japanese army during World War II, also known as "comfort women".
"It is time for the Japanese government to make a comprehensive apology and redress the grievances sought by the hundreds of thousands of women who were victimized under this cruel system," Honda said in a news release on Friday.
"For the women still alive, and for the countless who have passed, official recognition and acknowledgement is the only way to bring proper closure to this terrible chapter of World War II history," he said.
Israel said on Friday the Japanese government should fully acknowledge, apologize for and increase awareness of its history of the "comfort women" atrocity, as "these survivors of physical, sexual and psychological violence that was sanctioned by the Japanese government deserve this apology".
"I hope this provision sends a powerful message to Japan that it's time to face its history in order to move forward as a democracy," he said.
The appropriations bill funds US State Department operations, diplomatic operations, and foreign assistance.
The initiative by the congressmen came after the West Coast unveiled its first public memorial to WWII era "comfort women" in Glendale city, California, on Tuesday. City officials rejected a request from the Japanese general consulate in Los Angeles to not display the statue in a public park.
A similar request was made last year by the Japanese government to stop a monument to comfort women from being erected in New Jersey.
Many Asian Americans and Chinese community leaders have expressed shock and indignation at the Japanese government's attitude toward the "comfort women" issue.
Ivy Lee, emeritus professor at California State University, Sacramento, said the Glendale City Council wisely ignored the protest when it voted to approve the placement of a comfort women statue in a city park.
"It probably concluded voices originating from Japanese citizens in Japan and the consulate general of Japan in LA merely reflected the desire of foreigners to interfere in American domestic decisions," Lee said.
She noted the Council judiciously differentiated between the Imperial Japan of the WWII era and the Japanese Government today.
The distinction is, admittedly, now difficult to sustain, especially when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe campaigned in 2012 to revisit and replace the 1993 Kono and 1995 Murayama statements, which apologized for Japan's WWII system of sexual slavery that was the comfort women, its colonial rule and wartime aggression, she said.