By Beth Main.
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou urged Japan to apologise for its use of Asian women as sex slaves during WW2 at a conference on Sunday. The contentious issue of Japanese brutality towards women during WW2 is a source of considerable tension in Asia and one that keeps coming up again and again.
At a conference on sexual slavery attended by elderly women from Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines, who had been taken as ‘comfort women’ by the Japanese military, Ma spoke out in support of the women and urged Japan to learn from it’s history. In Taiwan, former comfort women have been campaigning for two decades. Then a total of 58 former sex slaves came forward, but the number is now down to eight.
It has been 75 years since one of Japan’s worst atrocities of the WW2 (or the Sino-Japanese War) The Rape of Nanjing and in timely fashion Japan is once again being called on to take the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past with apologies and compensation. Historians say up to 200,000 young women, mostly from Korea but also from China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan, were forced to serve as sex slaves in Japanese army brothels.
In 1993, then Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologised to former comfort women and acknowledged Japan’s involvement in causing their suffering. However in 2007, Shanghaiist regular and current Japanese opposition leader, Shinzo Abe said there was no evidence that Japan directly forced women to work as sex slaves. Abe also recently paid a visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japan’s war dead, including numerous convicted and alleged war criminals.
The current Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has shown himself to be not much better at diplomacy than his LDP rival, saying earlier this year: “There are no records confirming that women were taken away by force and there are no accounts [by former Japanese soldiers]”.
Korea was the most affected by the ‘comfort women’ atrocities and recently threatened to take the issue to the UN to get the apology they want.