As the 70th anniversary of the end of the Pacific war approaches, a group of Japanese academics released a statement this week urging Japan’s government to “squarely” face their nation’s wartime conduct—including the use of up to 200,000 mostly Korean “comfort women” who were forced to work in military brothels. For past war anniversaries, Japanese prime ministers have issued apologies for what the academics call “unspeakable violence” and colonial aggression, but Japan’s current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is expected to not express any regret. He failed to repeat the apology at his recent address to a joint session of the U.S. congress, he has previously questioned whether the women were actually forced to be sex slaves, and he has stated that Japan has given enough apologies for its behavior during the war. In their statement, the academics said, “As recent historical studies have shown, victims were subjected not only to forced recruitment, but also to conditions of sexual slavery which violated their basic human rights. By continuing to take the irresponsible stance of denying the facts of wartime sexual slavery in the Japanese military, certain politicians and sections of the media are essentially conveying to the rest of the world that Japan does not respect human rights … This kind of attitude tramples further upon the dignity of the victims, who have already borne terrible hardships.” They also fear that failure to hold accountability for past wrongdoings will build tensions with South Korea and China.
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