Japan’s move on ‘comfort women’ disturbing

By Jin Ying Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/6 20:18:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

UNESCO announced new nominations for the Memory of the World International Register on Thursday. "Voices of the 'Comfort Women'" endorsed by civic groups from eight countries and regions including China and South Korea was recommended for postponement. Some Japanese officials and media outlets applauded the decision. Japanese NGO which endorsed "Documentation on 'Comfort Women' and Japanese Army discipline" program to confront China and South Korea was jubilant.

Such reaction is not unexpected. Japan has put in a great deal of resources, energy and even staked its image to prevent China and South Korea from successfully registering the UNESCO list. Japan threatened to withhold its annual dues, stepped up pressures to change rules of registration and even threatened to withdraw from UNESCO, regardless of its image as a civilized nation. As Japanese media reported, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was mad at UNESCO listing of documents regarding the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in 2015 and requested that such listings be prevented without fail. For now, Japan's diplomatic branches finally finished what they were asked to do.

After Abe retook office at the end of 2012, Japan has been trying to downplay historical issues. The Abe administration fanned nationalism and called moves by victims of WWII seeking justice an attempt to malign Japan's reputation.

Meanwhile, he repressed national public opinion, and even launched counterattacks. In 2014, he started to examine the Kono statement made in 1993 and the coverage of "comfort women" by the Asahi Shimbun. Apart from claiming there are misunderstandings in the "comfort women" issue and related problems have already been solved on international occasions, Abe has tried hard to prevent China and South Korea from registering the "comfort women" on UNESCO list.

This time Japan succeeded in postponing the UNESCO registration of "comfort women" issue, but the losses outweighed the benefits.

First, it runs counter to the international practice of protecting women's rights. In recent years, international society has paid increasing attention to women's safety and rights, especially pertaining to sexual violence. Women's rights are an integral part of human rights. Against this background, the "comfort women" issue has attracted wide attention. This is aimed at learning a lesson from history and preventing tragedies from recurring, and ensuring living victims can obtain compensation.

Thus an increasing number of UN agencies on human rights and international organizations are concerned about Japan's mistaken stance on the "comfort women" issue. Japan's latest moves will only expose its double standards on human rights.

Second, Japan's act goes against the modern trend of diplomatic democratization. Both the agreement signed between Japan and South Korea on the resolution of problems related to property and claims and economic cooperation in 1965 and the bilateral agreement on settling the "comfort women" dispute in 2015 are led by the two governments. But without fully considering public opinion, such deals can be hardly translated into social consensus.

After South Korean President Moon Jae-in came to power, the government under public pressure began to believe that the "comfort women" dispute hasn't been well addressed and speeded up institutional and monument building. If Japan turns a blind eye to such changes in Chinese and South Korean society, it will spur more public discontent and confrontation.

Third, Japan's act goes against the ethos of peaceful and democratic nations. In the new century, Japan has increasingly valued its national image and branded itself a peaceful democratic nation. But to thwart the registration, Japan attempted to make the Imperial Japanese Army an army of civilization. Under Japanese pressure tactics, the "Documentation on 'Comfort Women' and Japanese Army discipline," submitted by a Japanese civic group as No.76 program, is a slap in the face of Japan's image of a peaceful democratic nation.

The author is a research fellow at the Institute of Japanese Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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