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Japan should face squarely its historical issues

By Zhang Zhouxiang | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-23 07:22

A visitor tours the Chinese "Comfort Women" History Museum on Sept 18,2023. XING YI/CHINA DAILY

The legal process could take time but whatever the final outcome, that the descendants of 18 Chinese "comfort women" who were sexually exploited by Japanese soldiers during World War II have filed lawsuits in the Shanxi High People's Court against the Japanese government is a welcome move.

As early as 1992, some "comfort women" had demanded an official apology as well as compensation from the Japanese government; the case first came up for trial in a Japanese court three years later. With the help of lawyers from both countries, and after prolonged litigation from 1995 to 2007, the Japanese court finally admitted to the historical facts but didn't entertain the demand for apology or compensation.

A self-contradictory ruling that admits to historical facts while absolving their government of any responsibility or compensation for the same makes the public doubt if their judiciary is really that independent when it comes to sensitive issues. Actually, the extremely long time the Japanese court took to issue a verdict in the first place, namely 12 years in which some of the women who had suffered passed away, was also seen as an effort to ensure the case dies a natural death. On Sunday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida sent a ritual offering to the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 class-A war criminals of the then imperialist Japan are worshipped, an indication that the Japanese leadership is far from getting rid of its militarist past.

On Friday, the Japanese government reportedly cleared new middle school textbooks that claim the "comfort women" system existed but was "not coercive". This is what some Japanese middle school students will read when the new academic session starts in the autumn of 2025. The Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Korea issued a statement in this regard, even setting up a meeting with the Japanese ambassador there to convey their reaction. It goes to show that attempts by Japan to deny past atrocities will not be accepted.

In 2021, a Seoul court had ordered Japan to compensate 12"comfort women", increasing the possibility of the victims from the ROK getting justice from a domestic court. It also springs hope for all those who suffered the humiliation of being "comfort women".


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