South Korea lodges objection over Kono statement re-examination

June 24, 2014

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

SEOUL--Japan's ambassador to South Korea was given a dressing down by Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong over the Kono statement re-examination results by the Abe administration.

"The use of coercion on 'comfort women' is a historical fact the entire world recognizes," Cho said at the beginning of the meeting with Koro Bessho on June 23 at the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul.

"The further the Abe administration tries to soil the Kono statement, the less credible Japan will seem, hurting its international reputation."

The Kono statement was issued in the name of then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993. The document apologizes to former comfort women, a euphemism for those forced to provide sex to wartime Japanese soldiers. Many of the women were Koreans as the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule until the end of World War II.

The South Korean foreign ministry has accused Japan of "trying to nullify the talk that admitted that there was coercion involved" as the re-examination results state the Japanese government understood the "use of coercion" to be unconfirmed.

The foreign ministry has also raised concerns that the panel report casts doubt on the credibility of the testimonies made by former comfort women. The results state that "further research to confirm the testimonies or a comparison with other testimonies was not conducted."

According to a South Korean foreign ministry official, Cho also lambasted the Abe administration for disclosing the unofficial discussions between the two nations on the draft of the statement in the re-examination results.

"Japan has ignored diplomatic customs, egocentrically edited what had been discussed, released it by themselves and hurt its credibility immensely," Cho said.

South Korea has also objected to the conclusion drawn on the Asian Women's Fund, which was a program active between 1995 and 2007 that provided former comfort women with compensation through donations collected from Japanese citizens. The sums were accompanied by a letter of apology from the prime minister.

The South Korean foreign ministry accused the panel report of "trying to create the impression that the failure of the fund was due to the South Korean government's change of stance."

The Abe administration's re-examination overall has "the purpose to negate the meaning of the Kono statement," the South Korean government concluded.

In order to pressure the Japanese government into resolving the matter, the South Korean government will likely strengthen efforts to bring the comfort women issue to the attention of the international community as a universal human rights issue.

(This article was written by Akihiko Kaise and Toru Higashioka in Seoul.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong, right, and Japan's Ambassador to South Korea Koro Bessho (Asahi Shimbun file photos)

South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong, right, and Japan's Ambassador to South Korea Koro Bessho (Asahi Shimbun file photos)

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  • South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong, right, and Japan's Ambassador to South Korea Koro Bessho (Asahi Shimbun file photos)

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