The Yomiuri Shimbun
Diplomatic consideration outweighed historical facts in Kono statement
河野談話検証 外交的配慮が事実に優先した

Once again a flaw in the 1993 statement issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on so-called comfort women has come to the fore.

A team of experts set up by the government has compiled a report examining the process of drafting the Kono statement, which was issued in August 1993 and expressed apologies and remorse to former comfort women.

South Korea demanded changes in certain expressions in the initial draft, saying The documents must be evaluated favorably by the South Korean people. The report shed light on the close coordination about the statement’s wording between the Japanese and South Korean governments.

Regarding whether coerciveness was involved in the recruitment of comfort women, a focal point of this issue, the 1993 statement said, “They were recruited generally against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, etc.”

In explaining why the statement used such expressions, the report clearly said, “...the question of how ‘coerciveness’ of the recruitment of the comfort women would be expressed and worded in the statement constituted the main issue of contention in the communication” with the South Korean side and “Coordination took place until the last moment.”

As for the Japanese military’s involvement in the establishment of comfort stations, the South Korean side insisted on using the expression “instruction,” which was rejected by Japan, the report said. Both sides eventually settled on the word “request” instead.

At the request of the South Korean government, the Japanese government interviewed 16 former comfort women, but the statement was drafted within the Japanese government before all the interviews were concluded.

Problem-plagued statement

It is clear that the government gave priority to making political compromises and paying diplomatic consideration over historical facts. It is a problem-plagued statement made jointly by Japan and South Korea.

Until this time, the Japanese government had avoided in-depth discussions to ascertain the facts regarding the issue of comfort women and the Kono statement.

Examining in detail the process of drafting the statement and releasing the results are meaningful in resolving misunderstanding in the international community about the issue of comfort women.

According to the report, the statement did not say the authorities were “forcefully taking away” women, as the Japanese government was not able to confirm it based on its investigations.

But at a press conference during which the statement was released, Kono responded to a question about whether women were forcefully taken away by saying, “We accept that to be the case.” Kono committed a serious transgression by further spreading wrong conceptions about the issue.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it clear that the government will not review the statement, a decision he probably made from the broader political perspective of seeking an improvement in relations between Japan and South Korea. Seoul, however, refuted Japan’s verification of the statement, saying the move could “impair the credibility of the statement.”

Since the Kono statement, there has been widespread misunderstanding in the world that Japan forcibly took away comfort women.

In the U.S. city of Glendale, Calif., Korean-Americans with strong ties with South Korea engaged in anti-Japanese activity by setting up a statue of a comfort woman.

The government has not launched effective counterarguments because of the Kono statement.

We believe it will eventually be unavoidable to change the statement.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 21, 2014)