Expert slams UNESCO for giving in to Japan on ‘comfort women’ documents

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/1 23:03:39

A "comfort women" monument is seen at St. Mary Square in San Francisco, the United States, on Sept. 22, 2017. Comfort Women Justice Coalition, a local grassroots advocacy group devoted to bring justice for the victims of Japanese military sexual slavery during the World War Two, unveiled a monument dedicated to the "comfort women" in San Francisco . (Xinhua/Ma Dan)

A Chinese scholar said Wednesday a UN agency "lost its moral compass" when it allegedly bowed to pressure from Japan and postponed nominations for comfort women-related documents for inclusion in the Memory of the World International Register.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) failed to stick to its purpose of preserving the true voices in human history, and the postponement shows it shirked on its responsibility, Su Zhiliang, director of Shanghai Normal University's Research Center for Chinese Comfort Women and chief expert of the "Voices of the 'Comfort Women'" program, told the Global Times.

The International Advisory Committee (IAC) of UNESCO's Memory of the World (MoW) Program recommended the postponement of nominations to "Voices of the 'Comfort Women'" and "Documentation on 'Comfort Women' and Japanese Army discipline" for the Memory of the World International Register, according to UNESCO's website.

The IAC also recommended setting a convenient place and time for a meeting of nominators and concerned parties in hopes of unifying nominations to reflect  all relevant documents, the UNESCO said Monday.

Su published a statement Tuesday denouncing Japan's obstruction to the nominations and expressed regret over UNESCO's decision.

In his statement, Su said that the IAC's decision was made after receiving pressure from the Japanese government, which is trying to improve its image. 

"Voices of the 'Comfort Women'," records on comfort women, sex slaves of Japanese soldiers during World War II, was endorsed by non-governmental organizations from eight countries and regions, including China, South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia in 2016. At least 400,000 Asian women were forced to become sex slaves to Japanese soldiers.

The other delayed nomination, "Documentation on 'Comfort Women' and Japanese Army discipline," endorsed by Japanese right-wing forces, was meant to ruin the nomination of "Voices of the 'Comfort Women,'" Su said.

In September, Japanese right-wing forces threatened to withhold Japan's membership fees if UNESCO decides to include "Voices of the 'Comfort Women'" in its Memory of the World Register.

Su said that scholars for the "Voices of the 'Comfort Women'" will meet in Seoul later this month to discuss their next action and whether to meet with the Japanese side.

The UNESCO on Monday inscribed 78 new nominations to the Memory of the World International Register, but did not respond to a request for comment from the Global Times as of press time.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lu Kang said in September that the "Voices of the 'Comfort Women'" will help people around the world fully recognize the cruelty of war, remember the past, cherish peace and safeguard the dignity of mankind, and he urged Japan to treat it the correct way.

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