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Politics & Security

EDITORIAL | Japan Must Speak the Truth Clearly to Resolve Berlin Comfort Woman Statue Issue

Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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South Korea’s recent anti-Japan installation of a comfort woman statue in the German capital Berlin has sparked repercussions, and the move could result in strained relations between Japan and Germany.

 

We want the Japanese and German governments to work on removing the statue, which distorts history and is degrading toward Japan.

 

In early December, the local assembly in Berlin’s Mitte district – where a pro-South Korea civic group installed the statue on public land – adopted a resolution allowing the statue to stay.

 

Under the resolution, the statue can be kept in its current location for one year, but there is a chance the period of time could be made permanent.

 

The base of the statue includes text stating that Japanese troops forcibly took away countless girls and women in the Asia-Pacific Region during World War II, and forced them to be sex slaves.

 

The newly adopted resolution refers to the Kono Statement of 1993 – released by the then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono – which acknowledges that females were forced to work as comfort women.

 

If Japan does not take action over the resolution, the false historical notion that comfort women were forced by the Japanese military to be “sex slaves” will spread across Germany, a major European country. This must not be overlooked. 

 

Previously, the Japanese government conducted a study in the buildup to the Kono Statement in 1993, but it has since emerged that there were no documents supporting the coercion of women.

 

On a similar note, the Asahi Shimbun revealed in 2014 that the “Yoshida Testimony” that formed the basis for the newspaper’s articles on coercion was false. The newspaper issued an apology and withdrew all relevant articles.

 

The Japanese government must publicize the above two developments far and wide – and work toward removing the statue in Berlin. There is a serious need to withdraw the Kono Statement, which includes false information, and has an adverse effect on Japan.

 

In November, the LDP’s Masahisa Sato sent letters to Mitte District officials and the Mayor of Berlin requesting removal of the statue. This was an appropriate course of action.

 

The letters explained the history of Japan’s sincere efforts regarding the comfort women issue, and expressed concerns over the statue causing “potential damage to Japan-Germany relations due to Japan-South Korea political issues being taken to Germany.” We want the relevant officials  in Germany to take Sato’s letters seriously.

 

Under a 2015 agreement between Japan and South Korea, it was confirmed that a “final and irreversible resolution” had been reached on the comfort women issue. Both nations promised that they would not criticize the other within the international community.

 

However, the South Korean government objected to the Japanese government’s request to remove the Berlin statue, saying: “It goes against the spirit of apologizing to former comfort women.”

 

Japan is merely defending itself against unfair anti-Japanese propaganda. South Korea is violating a promise between countries by supporting an anti-Japanese statue that is not based on historical facts. This is shameless behavior.

 

(Read the editorial here in Japanese.)

 

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun