Thursday, March 01, 2007

Abe and "Comfort Women"

From 1937, when Japan invaded Manchuria, to the end of the Pacific War in 1945, somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 women were forced into prostitution by the Japanese Imperial Army. So-called "comfort houses" were established throughout Asia, from Sakhalin Island to the Dutch East Indies and beyond. Wherever the Japanese military went, "comfort women" were "recruited" to serve the sexual desires of soldiers. Toward the end of the war, when most Japanese forces were withdrawn to the home islands, even Japanese women were forced to become military base prostitutes.

In 1993, not long after official documents detailing the Japanese military's role in procuring "comfort women" were unearthed, Japan issued a formal apology to the women involved and established a victims' compensation fund supported by private donations. Today, however, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe began to reverse his nation's progress toward the acceptance of responsibility for the terrible crimes perpetrated against tens of thousands of women. Abe said, "The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion."

Signs of the Japanese shift in policy were on display last month as government ministers reacted negatively to hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives on Japanese sex slavery during World War II. The nationalist tendencies of the Abe government seem destined to harm relations with Japan's East Asian neighbors and the United States as well.