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UN Committee Urges Abe Government to Address Comfort Women Issue

SNA (Tokyo) — The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) advised the government of Japan to take a more active stance towards the Comfort Women matter. The UN report was published on August 30, and it called for a “lasting solution” based on “a victim-centered approach.”

At the conference in Geneva, the UN committee reported that the Abe government had not done enough to compensate for human rights abuses. The so-called Comfort Women were forced to work in the Japanese Imperial Army’s brothels during the Pacific War. They mainly came from occupied territories such as Korea, China, and the Philippines. Historians estimate that the number of victims was around 200,000 (though Japanese revisionists debate all of these facts).

The United Nations demanded a detailed report on efforts undertaken by the Abe government to support surviving Comfort Women before the next periodic review. The remaining Comfort Women are now few in number and passing away due to old age.

The head of the Japanese delegation in Geneva contended that the United Nations had dismissed Japan’s efforts to aid Comfort Women, including financial compensation, medical, and other support that had been provided to some of the affected women through the 2015 Japan-South Korea agreement. He told the UN committee that the issue had been resolved “finally and irreversibly.”

On August 31, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga responded to the UN report by expressing regret over the accusations aimed at Japan, and he claimed that the United Nations had not taken into consideration the Japanese government’s clarifications. Suga also said that the Comfort Women issue should never have been raised at the UN conference in the first place.

Despite the 2015 agreement between South Korea and Japan, in which Japan had pledged to pay 1 billion yen (about US$8.8 million) to establish a foundation supporting the victims, “the deal was flawed” according to a special task force appointed by South Korean President Moon Jae-In. President Moon has criticized the agreement. The South Korean government, which was led in 2015 by the now-disgraced former President Park Geun-Hye, had failed to conduct hearings with the Comfort Women.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono later warned that should the government of South Korea attempt to revise the 2015 agreement, that would cause a deterioration in Japan-South Korea relations.

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