First and foremost, I want to thank and commend you and our Senior Ranking Member, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, for your leadership and efforts and, especially, for your support to bring this proposed legislation in the form of a substitute for markup this morning before our Committee. I also want to thank our colleague, the gentleman from California, Mr. Honda, for his sponsorship of this bill which has the bipartisan support of some 146 Members of the House of Representatives. I also want to make note that this resolution was previously passed by this committee in the last Congress, under the able leadership of our previous Chairman, the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Henry Hyde. I would be remiss if I did not also mention the name of our former colleague and friend, Mr. Lane Evans also from Illinois, who championed this bill for the past several years.
Mr. Chairman, our Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment conducted a hearing in February of this year concerning the proposed bill, and for the first time ever in the history of the Congress, three women who previously served as sexual slaves to the Japanese Army soldiers during World War II personally testified before our Subcommittee: Ms. Yong Soo Lee and Ms. Koon Ja Kim both from Korea, and Ms. Jan Ruff O’Herne from Australia. These women were raped and forced into sexual slavery and human trafficking by the soldiers of the Imperial Army of Japan during World War II. These women were among some 200,000 from Korea, China, the Phillipines, Indonesia and other countries in the Pacific who were forced into prostitution and were severely abused, tortured and even killed by Japanese soldiers before and during the second World War.
Mr. Chairman, there was a lot of discussion during our hearing about the number of apologies made by some of the leaders and prime ministers of Japan, concerning the practice of setting up sexual slave camps during Japanese occupation of several countries throughout Asia before and during World War II. It should be noted, however, not one prime minister has ever made an unequivocal apology on behalf of the Government of Japan, and not even with the support or endorsement of cabinet as a necessary matter of record and operation of a parliamentary system of government.
As Mr. Honda eloquently stated in his testimony before our subcommittee, this resolution is simply to call upon “the Government of Japan to formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its (Japan) Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women and girls into sexual slavery during World War II.”
It should be noted that in 1993, after a two-year study by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the supervision of the Chief Secretary of Cabinet, an equivalent to the Chief-of-Staff of the White House, Mr. Yahei Kono stated,
The Government of Japan has been conducting a study on the issue of wartime "comfort women" since December 1991. I wish to announce the findings as a result of that study.
As a result of the study which indicates that comfort stations were operated in extensive areas for long periods, it is apparent that there existed a great number of comfort women. Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military authorities of the day. The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women. The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere.
As to the origin of those comfort women who were transferred to the war areas, excluding those from Japan, those from the Korean Peninsula accounted for a large part. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule in those days, and their recruitment, transfer, control, etc., were conducted generally against their will, through coaxing, coercion, etc.
Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.
It is incumbent upon us, the Government of Japan, to continue to consider seriously, while listening to the views of learned circles, how best we can express this sentiment.
We shall face squarely the historical facts as described above instead of evading them, and take them to heart as lessons of history. We hereby reiterated our firm determination never to repeat the same mistake by forever engraving such issues in our memories through the study and teaching of history.
As actions have been brought to court in Japan and interests have been shown in this issue outside Japan, the Government of Japan shall continue to pay full attention to this matter, including private researched related thereto.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
August 4, 1993
While substantive, and I commend Mr. Kono for his findings, but a Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan simply does not speak on behalf of the Government of Japan.
In recent months, Prime Minister Abe first denied the existence of such sexual slave camps because of the pressure from the conservative members of his party. Then, he retracted his position because of pressure from leaders of the Asia-Pacific region. Recently, Prime Minister Abe now referred to the issue by stating that he “respects” the finding of the Kono Report of 1993. What does this mean?
Mr. Chairman, I bear no animosity or ill-will towards the people of Japan and I must emphasize that our economic, strategic, and military alliance with Japan could not have been better. However, I make this appeal to the leaders of Japan to resolve this issue and move on. There can be no reconciliation without proper acknowledgement. The recognition of this dark chapter of Japan’s history of the atrocities and sexual slavery operations authorized and implemented by the Japanese Imperial Army before and during World War II, cannot be denied.
Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.
The Committee on Foreign Affairs reported favorably H. Res. 121 to the House, by a vote of 39 Yeas to 2 Nays. Chairman Tom Lantos has requested Congressman Faleomavaega to manage H. Res. 121 when it is considered on the House Floor for final passage.