Importance of teaching students and citizens
As noted above, Yoshimi believes that the Korea-Japan relationship cannot turn into a truly amicable relationship unless the tangled problems of the past are properly solved. With hardly any mention of “comfort women” in Japanese middle school textbooks, and just few dry sentences squeezed into the modern history section in the high school ones, he worries that Japan will eventually isolate itself from international society due to its stubborn refusal to repent. Despite his anxieties, however, Yoshimi refuses to be overly pessimistic.
“I have met numerous university students who are more than willing to delve into the ‘comfort women’ issue,” Yoshimi said. “It is not that they do not want to study and correct the wrongs of the past; they are simply not given the chance.”
Yoshimi continues to believe in the power of students and citizens of Japan as he works to bring about the day when Japan finally shows full repentance for its past deeds.
“I am grateful for the ‘comfort women’ victims for being brave and testifying,” Yoshimi said. “They gave me a chance to think and learn about the matter.”
History of “comfort women”: from past to present
During the Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific War, an estimated number of 50,000 to several million girls from Japan’s colonial regions including Korea were forced into sexual exploitation for Japanese soldiers. Those girls were named “comfort women” by the Japanese authorities in that they were meant to provide physical and mental comfort to the soldiers through sexual activities.
On Aug. 14, 1991, Kim Hak-soon testified that she used to be a “comfort woman.” This action was triggered by the Japanese government’s refusal to admit that such a thing had ever happened because “there was no proof.” Kim came forward as “living proof,” and following her example, 237 other women in Korea officially turned out to proclaim themselves victims of the “comfort women” system.
On Aug. 4, 1993, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono made a statement, known as the Kono Statement, that admitted the “comfort women” system did exist and that the Japanese military was involved in running the system. However, it did not admit that the Japanese authorities were the direct main agent of the system, therefore dodging the responsibility of governmental legal compensation.
On Dec. 28, 2015, the Japanese and Korean governments proclaimed the Korea-Japan agreement, which dictates that the Japanese government give the Korean government a billion yen under the name of “support fund” for establishing a “comfort women” foundation. The agreement also stated that the “comfort women” issue is now resolved “finally and irreversibly.” However, the “comfort women” victims argue that this agreement cannot be an adequate solution and demand an official apology and legal compensation. Thus the controversy still remains unsolved.