News / Asia

US Congressman: America Has Key Role to Play in 'Comfort Women' Issue

FILE - Former comfort women who served the Japanese Army as sexual slaves during World War II, at a rally before Korean Liberation Day.
FILE - Former comfort women who served the Japanese Army as sexual slaves during World War II, at a rally before Korean Liberation Day.
Eunjung ChoJee Abbey Lee

A senior U.S. lawmaker says the United States has a key role to play in resolving the systematic use of sexual slaves by the Japanese army before and during the World War II.

In a telephone interview with the VOA Korean service last weekend, U.S. Representative Michael Honda (D-CA) emphasized the role Washington can play in resolving the issue of the so-called “comfort women.”

“The U.S. has strong democratic and economic partnerships with both [South] Korea and Japan,” said the Representative of the 17th Congressional District of California. He added the American government is able to say if one or the other is wrong.

Congressman Honda said Washington can set the example of mature democracy and serve as a facilitator between its two biggest allies in Northeast Asia.

“Our country has demonstrated that you can apologize very clearly, formally, and unambiguously; and make things right,” explained the longtime politician.

Honda was referring to the U.S. government apologizing to the Japanese-Americans for interning their ancestors during the World War II to concentration camps and to the Chinese-Americans for anti-Chinese immigration laws.

Regarding bilateral talks between Seoul and Tokyo, Honda said there should be “very strong and clear benchmarks” for negotiations on the “comfort women” issue  The two neighbors are engaging in talks on the wartime crimes.

Honda stressed the importance of timely agreement on the issue, saying the victims are passing away. “Right now, they are the living, breathing example of truth, justice, and reconciliation,” he said. 

The euphemism “comfort women” refers to up to 200,000 girls and women forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army. The “comfort stations” were located in 11 nations, including Japan, China, and Indonesia.

It's estimated the Japanese forced about 200,000 women to provide sexual services to its soldiers before and during World War II.  Most came from Korea, though many were from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan.

Honda says the appropriate action for Tokyo would be “to accept the historical responsibility they have to formally apologize unambiguously - and pass legislation to the Diet and include these facts in their textbooks for the youngsters.”

Earlier this year, President Obama called the issue of comfort women a "terrible, egregious violation of human rights."

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

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