Posted : 2014-03-06 17:09
Updated : 2014-03-06 17:09

'Forgotten holocaust'

Yun's speech to shed fresh light on Japan's sexual slavery

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se denounced Japan for denying that it forced women, mostly Koreans, into sexual enslavement during World War II in a keynote speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, Wednesday. This marks the first time that a Korean foreign minister has raised the so-called ‘‘comfort women'' issue on the U.N. stage, which testifies to the urgency of settling the protracted problem.

‘‘The starting point of the prevention of human rights violations is for countries to admit past wrongdoings, take responsibility for such deeds and educate people of correct history for future generations,'' Yun said.

Yun's address will shed fresh light on the wartime sexual slavery issue and serve as a national humiliation for Japan, but it is of Japan's own making. True, Seoul has kept a low profile as far as past history is concerned, but Yun made up his mind to speak in person because Japan's rightward shift has gone to extremes.

In particular, he cited a case of a few days ago in which Japan's senior vice minister of education and culture made remarks indicating that the victims of sexual slavery had ‘‘fabricated'' their testimony. ‘‘Such remarks added insult to the dignity of the victims who weathered physical and psychological pain and Japan's such actions are a direct challenge to consistent requests made by the international community,'' he said.

Yun was right to call the sexual slavery matter the ‘‘forgotten holocaust,'' quoting a Dutch-Australian woman who testified about Japan's wartime atrocities in 2007 at the U.S. House of Representatives, breaking 50 years of silence.

As this page has noted repeatedly, Japan's provocative remarks and acts regarding the comfort women must be a precursor to a scheme by the Abe administration to revise or abandon the 1993 Kono Statement, which acknowledged Japan's official complicity in the coercion of women into sexual slavery.

Yet such attempts will prove futile in the end, given that the landmark statement was drawn up after nearly two years of extensive study by the Japanese government itself. As has been known widely, the statement said, ‘‘Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military authorities. The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women.''

It's no laughing matter that our relations with Japan have hit their lowest point recently because of its repeated attempts to whitewash past misdeeds and misguided territorial claims, but that won't help anyone. Japan's politicians need to know the results of a recent survey by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies that the conservative Japanese premier has earned only 1.1 points out of 10 in the index measuring how good Koreans' feelings are, lower than the 1.27 points given to North Korea's young dictator.

The most important thing for now is Japan's choice. Unless the neighboring country boldly escapes from its mistaken path, it's obvious that Japan's international isolation will deepen further.

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