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June 23, 2017

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It shouldn't be too difficult for Japan to apologize

Two scores of protestors marched on the de facto Japanese embassy in Taipei last Thursday to demand an official apology and compensation from Japan for Taiwanese women forced into sexual slavery during World War II.

Kang Shu-hua, executive director of the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation that organized the rally at the Taipei Office of Japan's Interchange Association, demanded the following: that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologize to the comfort women on behalf of the Japanese government, with an endorsement from parliament; that Japan recognize the fact that there were comfort women forced to work at military brothels; and that the Diet legislate the prohibition of remarks that twist the facts about the sex slaves for the Japanese Imperial Army.

Protestors, who included Secretary-General Bo Tedards of Amnesty International Taiwan, also demanded compensation for the victims and an inclusion of the history of the comfort women in school textbooks so that the younger generation will remember how the Japanese military forced women into sexual slavery.

An estimated 2,000 women in Taiwan under Japanese colonial rule were recruited, drafted or forced to work as sex slaves in frontline brothels abroad. But only 28 of them registered as former comfort women demanding compensation and an official apology from Japan. Only five are still alive, all in their 90s and weak. What all of them need most is Prime Minister Abe's official apology on behalf of the Japanese government before they die.

What has Abe done as prime minister to deal with the problem of comfort women? When the surviving sex slaves wanted an apology from the Japanese government in 2007, Abe, then prime minister, stated that there was no evidence that the Japanese government had kept sex slaves, even though the Japanese government had already admitted to the use of coercion in 1993.

The current Abe administration looked into the Kono statement of 1993 in which the then chief cabinet secretary, Yohei Kono, admitted that coercion was also used to recruit comfort women and offered an apology. On last Feb. 20, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Sugar said the Japanese government might reconsider the Kono statement. Abe clarified on March 14 that he had no intention of renouncing his acceptance of the statement or altering it.

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