Asia Rights

Journal of Human Rights, Media and Society in Asia and the Pacific


On 24 August 2012, Osaka Mayor Hashomoto Toru tweeted at length on the subject of the so-called ‘comfort women’.

There are many sources of informed discussion on the ‘comfort women’ issue. These include

- the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Radhika Coomaraswamy, 1996, available HERE

- the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Gay J. McDougall, 1998, available HERE

- Digital Museum – The Comfort Women Issue and the Asian Women’s Fund (containing many key documents on the issue) accessible HERE

- The the Center for Research and Documentation on Japan’s War Responsibility, accessible HERE

- Yoshiko Nozaki, “The ‘Comfort Women’ Controversy: History and Testimony”, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, available HERE

- The story of Jan Ruff O’Herne, outlined HERE

- C. Sarah Soh, The Comfort Women: Sexual Violence and Postcolonial Memory in Korea and Japan, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2008

-Toshiyuki Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution During World War II and the US Occupation, London and New York, Routledge, 2002.

- Yoshiaki Yoshimi, Comfort Women. Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World War II, Asia Perspectives, translation: Suzanne O’Brien, New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

An unofficial translation of Hashimoto Toru’s comments on the subject is given below.


Now we’re being abused by the Korean media about the military comfort women problem, right? And if you try to argue back in the Japanese media you get in terrible trouble, but, ah well, it can’t be helped. In the position of mayor of Osaka, a mere local government leader, I guess I shouldn’t touch national foreign policy, but I will make a statement as representative of One Osaka (Osaka Ishin no Kai) who thinks about problems of national politics.

This time when the issue was raised what I clearly understood is that the Japanese government’s logic about the 1993 Kono Statements needs to be sorted. In 2007, the Abe cabinet made an important cabinet resolution about the 1993 Kono Statement, which had admitted that military comfort women were subject to forcible recruitment (kyosei renko) by the Japanese state. In 2007 the Abe cabinet made a cabinet resolution that there was no evidence that comfort women were forcible recruited by the military or officials. That is the view of the Japanese government. I am a Japanese, so I stand by the view of the Japanese government. Besides, I am not a historian, so I’m not going to do the work of collecting historical documents to deliberately overturn the Japanese government’s cabinet resolution.

So what I’m saying is I want the Korean side to produce proof that they were forcibly recruited by the Japanese state. I’m not saying I absolutely don’t accept the statements of the Korean side, I’m saying show us the proof. Then Korean media comes back and says the Kōno Statement is the proof.  That’s complete tautology.

This is where Japanese nationals need to be properly aware, confront Korea and argue back. The 1993 Kono Statement ran away from this most important thing. That’s what destroyed Japan-Korea relations. This is the real responsibility of politicians. Fight it out verbally until you foam at the mouth. We need to think seriously about what the real issue is, and how far we should respect the position of the other side.

In the 2007 cabinet resolution, the Japanese government determined that there was no proof to support the 1993 Kono Statement. But in spite of that Korea says the Kono Statement is the proof of forced recruitment. We can’t leave the Kono Statement the way it is. It’s true that the Japanese army was involved in running comfort stations. These institutions were instituted because it was wartime. In contemporary society too brothels are publicly regulated. It was natural that comfort stations were publicly regulated from the point of view of hygiene and maintaining order.

The problem is, were comfort women forcible recruited against their will. That’s the number one point. But there is no proof of that on the Japanese side. Even when the Jeju Island media did a survey they couldn’t find anything to prove the fact that comfort women were forcibly recruited by the Japanese state. So I’m demanding that the Korean side provides proof. If there’s proof then there should be an apology. Forced recruitment can’t be justified by any arguments. But there isn’t yet any evidence that the Japanese state forcibly recruited comfort women.

This is separate from the question of sympathy for the comfort women. You’ve got to feel sympathy for the suffering people who became comfort women in all sorts of circumstances against their own will and experienced mental and physical suffering. It’s the same if you hear stories from Japanese people in the same circumstances. But [having to do something] against your own will and being forced is completely different.

The 1993 Kono Statement cheated us with the words ‘against their own will’. That’s the greatest responsibility of politicians. Does this mean it was against their own will, or does it mean that they were forced by the Japanese state? We have to make this clear. Of course we have to apologise if it was the latter. But now there isn’t any proof of this. That’s why I want the Korean side to produce it.

If it wasn’t forced, how do we understand the comfort stations in the circumstances of the time? Japan wasn’t the only place where there were comfort stations to protect military order, and the prostitution industry exists in every country of the world. It is certain that comfort stations and similar sorts of prostitution industry exist. The problem is, were the comfort women forcibly recruited. We have to confront Korea about that face to face.

Should the Japanese government leave things as they are when the Korean media says the Kono Statement is proof that comfort women were forcibly recruited etc.? How about the issue of reconciling this with the cabinet resolution of 2007 which said that there is no proof they were forcibly recruited? Japanese parliament and Foreign Ministry, get your act together!

But hey, I don’t think we should quarrel with our neighbours in nearby countries about this. If the root of it is the military comfort women issue, we should debate it face to face, and if there are facts we should apologize about, then we should apologize. If no facts emerge, then we shouldn’t apologize. This is where the Foreign Ministry gets politicians to give a pathetic excuse of an answer. The 1965 Japan-South Korea Treaty of Basic Relations.

In times of problems like this, there’s no reason to communicate with the other party by giving a bureaucratic reply like, this was all settled by the 1965 Japan-South Korea Treaty of Basic Relations. You know, when I was Governor [of Osaka] and my departments kept producing that kind of formulaic reply, I’d just hit it straight back to them all the time. That’s the sort of formal logic that the law courts use when handing down judgments. Person to person communication is banned. 

But bureaucrats just develop this sort of formulaic logic. If you say ‘it was all settled by the 1965 Japan-Korea Basic Treaty!’ you have no idea whether there was or wasn’t forcible recruitment, right? A typical bureaucratic response. Whatever it says in the Basic Treaty, we should debate face to face whether there was forcible recruitment. Until persuaded. If there really was forcible recruitment, then we should debate whether it was settled by the Treaty of Basic Relations. There is definitely a legal principle that if you don’t enter into discussion of topic of conflict to be reconciled, the search for reconciliation is ineffectual. So if you say it was all solved by the 1965 Treaty of Basic Relations, that’s no solution. Politics is what corrects the logic of bureaucrats. 

Whatever the 1965 Japan-South Korea Treaty of Basic Relations, we should confirm whether there was or wasn’t forcible recruitment of comfort women. If we made a cabinet resolution in 2007 that there was no evidence of forced recruitment, then there is nothing for it but to revise the Kono Statement. And ask the Korean side for proof of forcible recruitment other than the Kono Statement. If proof emerges, then we will think of including the 1965 Japan-South Korea Treaty of Basic Relations in the frame. Bureaucrats find it easy to start with hair-splitting. That’s why they start with the 1965 Treaty. Politicians should start with the real essence of things. Because of the problem of Takeshima, the people of the nation have come to know the Japan Korea conflict to this extent. This is the best chance to solve the comfort women problem which is at the root of it. That’s real politics for you.

(The final paragraphs of the tweet, which deal with the Dokdo/Takeshima issue, have been omitted)


source: NET IB NEWS,




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