Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Comfort Women of the Pacific deserve Justice too

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Australia must face up to its role in the lack of justice for comfort women

The Sydney Morning Herald, December 30, 2015

by Dr. Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University and author of The Japanese comfort women and sexual slavery during the China and Pacific wars (Bloomsbury, 2016).

The Australian and US governments will enthusiastically welcome Monday's agreement between Japan and South Korea that "finally and irreversibly" settles diplomatic disputation between the two countries over the wartime history of Japanese military sexual slavery.

But Australia should play no part in the international pantomime that will now be staged on the basis of Monday's agreement on comfort women.

The truth is, Australia has been performing a farce of its own about the history of the comfort women for too long already. The Japanese military organised the sexual enslavement of women in an Australian territory during the war (New Guinea), which we inexplicably failed to prosecute in trials after the war. Civic groups in Papua New Guinea today retain evidence of tens of thousands of cases of Japanese military war crimes, and cry out for assistance in approaching Japan for recognition and restitution. 
[NB: In The New Guinea Comfort Women, Japan and the Australian Connection: out of the shadows by the late-Professor Hank Nelson definitively lays out the extent of Japan's comfort women system in PNG and the abuse of the local women. He writes:
there is scattered material on perhaps 3000 comfort women in an Australian Territory, but when Australian reporters and commentators need to give the comfort women an Australian relevance, these women are never mentioned. Their experiences are not used to provide evidence on the recurring debates about whether the comfort women were coerced or free and whether they were recruited, shipped and employed by private contractors rather than the Japanese military or government.
Dr. Nelson's research is a stark contrast to the essay by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's chief political adviser and cabinet official Isao Iijima you can find below this article. Iijima claims to have asked on PNG if there were incidents of rape of local women by Japanese soldiers and he said he was assured there were none. This he finds as a contrast to the behavior of Korean troops in Vietnam. He quotes information from a new nonprofit created by the law/lobbying firm of HoganLovells for Vietnamese women who were raped for Korean troops. The firm happens also to be the Embassy of Japan's longtime lobbyists.]
Australia has never responded to these appeals, despite the enduring fact of our own historical liability for failing to protect women in an Australian jurisdiction and failing to pursue justice for them after the war.

If we want to celebrate an occasion of justice delivered the wartime comfort women, Australia should immediately commence investigation of what happened in wartime New Guinea. But for this to be politically possible, our relationship with Japan needs to be placed second to the historical justice owed to sexual slavery survivors. For their sake, I hope the pull of our allied interests will be resistible. Monday's agreement only makes the pull stronger.

Western governments have been itching for Prime Minster Abe Shinzou to deliver them some kind of pretence upon which they can rationalise their continuing military collaboration with a government in Japan that is increasingly warmongering, rightist and hostile to survivors of wartime military comfort stations. Joint military manoeuvres, arms trading and reciprocal defence agreements with Japan got awkward in recent years due to the Abe regime re-enacting too realistically the military fascism of the country's past. Now, western governments hope, the world will view Japan as having turned a corner.

The pretence established by this agreement costs Japan little and delivers its allies much. It creates the political fiction that Japan's government has ceded to the demands of sexual slavery survivors and their representative organisations in finally making amends for past wrongs. In reality, the Japanese government has done no such thing.

The agreement adds new insults to the long list of outrages the Abe-led government has perpetrated against survivors. It calls for steps towards the removal of a memorial statue to the comfort women outside Japan's embassy in Seoul, and imposes a gag on the Korean government critically mentioning Japan's history of military sexual slavery in international settings.

For more than two decades, survivors have called for the Japanese government to admit legal liability for its organisation of military sexual slavery during the China and Pacific wars. Monday's agreement admits vague responsibility but not any kind of liability: "The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honour and dignity of large numbers of women, and the government of Japan is painfully aware of responsibilities from this perspective."

The distinction is very important to Japan's international standing today because, by any measure, its wartime actions warrant retrospective scrutiny under international law. By the time of the war, Japan had ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children, and the United Nations declared "enforced prostitution" a war crime in 1943. The Japanese government was well across its international legal obligations. Its military dressed sex slaves in nurses uniforms at the end of the war when allied liberators entered occupied areas, so legal liability was obviously a front-of-mind concern.

Monday's agreement is a step backwards compared with the Kono Statement of 1993 because "coercion" is no longer acknowledged for women entering military brothels. The agreement makes no remorseful mention of the numerous civil actions brought by Korean and Chinese survivors that Japanese government lawyers vigorously and doggedly opposed, dragging the cases out over years, even in cases where survivors sought no monetary damages. The agreement leaves in doubt the issue of history textbooks used in Japan's schools that mostly omit any mention of the history of wartime sexual slavery.

Most importantly, the agreement imposes no obligation on Japan to release to governments in Korea, China and the Asia-Pacific documents showing the nature and extent of enslavement of their female populations during the war. These countries are currently hamstrung by a lack of records, given the difficulty of assessing war crimes occurring 70 years ago against victims now mostly gone.

Without Australian help, Papua New Guinea has little chance of overcoming these hurdles, and their wartime comfort women little possibility of ever attaining justice.

-And Now for Something Completely Different-

Isao Ijima

Comfort women issue --The Achilles' Heel of South Korea

by Isao Iijima
Weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun, November 26 2015

The summit meeting between Japan and South Korea was held for the first time since the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned (from G-20 meetings). The whole development was what Prime Minister Abe expected that China would start moving on improving the relationship between China and Japan, with the help of economic slowdown, and that South Korea would follow after all (to improve ties with Japan.)

In the meantime, Director-general level talks over the "comfort women" issue have started, following the developments of the summit meeting. It's been widely reported that they would seek for new points to compromise, or they would do something by the end of year, but it's so out of the way.

Japan should reflect on its past conduct, but why does South Korea blame Japan so much in a unilateral way?

I'd like to ask if they are entitled to do so.

At the time of the Vietnam War, 312,853 of soldiers of South Korean forces were dispatched to Vietnam between 1964 and 1973. The Command Headquarters was located in the capital of South Vietnam, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), at that time, but various units such as White Horse, Blue Dragon, and Tiger Divisions took active parts in all over the regions.

Among of all, the worst incident (by ROK forces) was the massacre which occurred between 03 and 06 Dec 1966 in Binh Hoa city, Quang Ngai Province. 430 Vietnamese civilians were killed by members of South Korean forces. I bet no one knew this happened. This incident was referred as "Binh Hoa massacre" and 269 out of 430 were females whose ages from elderly to children including 21 pregnant women. The most tragic part of the incident was that 12 women were repeatedly sexually assaulted until they died.

Prior to this incident, there was another awful incident which happened on 26 Feb 1966 in Tay Son district, Binh Dinh Province. The South Korean forces killed about 380 people in 1 hour and assaulted many women.

-- The origin of worsening feelings towards South Korea

The comfort women issue caused by the Japanese troops has been highlighted by South Korea, but how could they say it out loud to the people in the Vietnam to whom they repeated their awful conducts?

During the WW-II, Vietnam was the part of the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" due to occupation by Japan. Because of Japan's defeat at the war, Vietnam had an opportunity to be independent from France, which was a former suzerain power after a fierce battle. Vietnam has better feelings towards Japan than South Korea because of its past conduct during the Vietnam War.

Furthermore, the behaviors of Japanese troops during the wars were evaluated differently in the Pacific region where they fought against the US forces.

As you know, it is prominent in many small island states in the Pacific that they are pro-Japan nations. Do you know why? --- Before fighting against the US forces, the Japanese troops had residents evacuated from the battle field.

I accompanied Junichiro Koizumi, a former Prime Minister, when he served as Minister of Health and Welfare, to Papua New Guinea to collect remains of the war. So I asked the people there, "honestly, how were the Japanese troops at that time?" It was said that 22 thousand soldiers were dispatched to Papua New Guinea, but I was told that "even if they (Japanese troops) got drunk, no incident of rape had occurred; not even one got victimized."

I was impressed. That's why people there still respect Japan, and they are the representatives of a pro-Japan nation.

Now I look back the history, South Korean forces did terrible things during the Vietnam War. With my intelligence, more stories of badly behaved South Korea are piling up.

I would like representatives of Japan to act firmly at the Director-general level meetings.

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