A photo of comfort station with English signs
GIs Frequented Japan's 'Comfort Women'
Apr 25, 9:45 PM EDT
By ERIC TALMADGE
Associated Press Writer
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's abhorrent practice of enslaving women to provide sex for its troops in World War II has a little-known sequel: After its surrender - with tacit approval from the U.S. occupation authorities - Japan set up a similar "comfort women" system for American GIs.
An Associated Press review of historical documents and records - some never before translated into English - shows American authorities permitted the official brothel system to operate despite internal reports that women were being coerced into prostitution. The Americans also had full knowledge by then of Japan's atrocious treatment of women in countries across Asia that it conquered during the war.
Tens of thousands of women were employed to provide cheap sex to U.S. troops until the spring of 1946, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur shut the brothels down.
The documents show the brothels were rushed into operation as American forces poured into Japan beginning in August 1945.
"Sadly, we police had to set up sexual comfort stations for the occupation troops," recounts the official history of the Ibaraki Prefectural Police Department, whose jurisdiction is just northeast of Tokyo. "The strategy was, through the special work of experienced women, to create a breakwater to protect regular women and girls."
The orders from the Ministry of the Interior came on Aug. 18, 1945, one day before a Japanese delegation flew to the Philippines to negotiate the terms of their country's surrender and occupation.
The Ibaraki police immediately set to work. The only suitable facility was a dormitory for single police officers, which they quickly converted into a brothel. Bedding from the navy was brought in, along with 20 comfort women. The brothel opened for business Sept. 20.
"As expected, after it opened it was elbow to elbow," the history says. "The comfort women ... had some resistance to selling themselves to men who just yesterday were the enemy, and because of differences in language and race, there were a great deal of apprehensions at first. But they were paid highly, and they gradually came to accept their work peacefully."
Police officials and Tokyo businessmen established a network of brothels under the auspices of the Recreation and Amusement Association, which operated with government funds. On Aug. 28, 1945, an advance wave of occupation troops arrived in Atsugi, just south of Tokyo. By nightfall, the troops found the RAA's first brothel.
"I rushed there with two or three RAA executives, and was surprised to see 500 or 600 soldiers standing in line on the street," Seiichi Kaburagi, the chief of public relations for the RAA, wrote in a 1972 memoir. He said American MPs were barely able to keep the troops under control.
Though arranged and supervised by the police and civilian government, the system mirrored the comfort stations established by the Japanese military abroad during the war.
Kaburagi wrote that occupation GIs paid upfront and were given tickets and condoms. The first RAA brothel, called Komachien - The Babe Garden - had 38 women, but due to high demand that was quickly increased to 100. Each woman serviced from 15 to 60 clients a day.
American historian John Dower, in his book "Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of WWII," says the charge for a short session with a prostitute was 15 yen, or about a dollar, roughly the cost of half a pack of cigarettes.
Kaburagi said the sudden demand forced brothel operators to advertise for women who were not licensed prostitutes.
Natsue Takita, a 19-year-old Komachien worker whose relatives had been killed in the war, responded to an ad seeking an office worker. She was told the only positions available were for comfort women and was persuaded to accept the offer.
According to Kaburagi's memoirs, published in Japanese after the occupation ended in 1952, Takita jumped in front of a train a few days after the brothel started operations. "The worst victims ... were the women who, with no previous experience, answered the ads calling for `Women of the New Japan,'" he wrote.
By the end of 1945, about 350,000 U.S. troops were occupying Japan. At its peak, Kaburagi wrote, the RAA employed 70,000 prostitutes to serve them. Although there are suspicions, there is not clear evidence non-Japanese comfort women were imported to Japan as part of the program.
Toshiyuki Tanaka, a history professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, cautioned that Kaburagi's number is hard to document. But he added the RAA was also only part of the picture - the number of private brothels outside the official system was likely even higher.
The U.S. occupation leadership provided the Japanese government with penicillin for comfort women servicing occupation troops, established prophylactic stations near the RAA brothels and, initially, condoned the troops' use of them, according to documents discovered by Tanaka.
Occupation leaders were not blind to the similarities between the comfort women procured by Japan for its own troops and those it recruited for the GIs. A Dec. 6, 1945, memorandum from Lt. Col. Hugh McDonald, a senior officer with the Public Health and Welfare Division of the occupation's General Headquarters, shows U.S. occupation forces were aware the Japanese comfort women were often coerced.
"The girl is impressed into contracting by the desperate financial straits of her parents and their urging, occasionally supplemented by her willingness to make such a sacrifice to help her family," he wrote. "It is the belief of our informants, however, that in urban districts the practice of enslaving girls, while much less prevalent than in the past, still exists."
Amid complaints from military chaplains and concerns that disclosure of the brothels would embarrass the occupation forces back in the U.S., on March 25, 1946, MacArthur placed all brothels, comfort stations and other places of prostitution off limits. The RAA soon collapsed.
MacArthur's primary concern was not only a moral one. By that time, Tanaka says, more than a quarter of all American GIs in the occupation forces had a sexually transmitted disease. "The nationwide off-limits policy suddenly put more than 150,000 Japanese women out of a job," Tanaka wrote in a 2002 book on sexual slavery. Most continued to serve the troops illegally. Many had VD and were destitute, he wrote.
Under intense pressure, Japan's government apologized in 1993 for its role in running brothels around Asia and coercing women into serving its troops. The issue remains controversial today.
In January, California Rep. Mike Honda offered a resolution in the House condemning Japan's use of sex slaves, in part to renew pressure on Japan ahead of the closure of the Asian Women's Fund, a private foundation created two years after the apology to compensate comfort women.
The fund compensated only 285 women in the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan, out of an estimated 50,000-200,000 comfort women enslaved by Japan's military in those countries during the war. Each received 2 million yen, about $17,800. A handful of Dutch and Indonesian women were also given assistance. The fund closed, as scheduled, on March 31.
Haruki Wada, the fund's executive director, said its creation marked an important change in attitude among Japan's leadership and represented the will of Japan's "silent majority" to see that justice is done. He also noted that although it was a private organization, the government was its main sponsor, kicking in 4.625 billion yen, about $40 million. Even so, he admitted it fell short of expectations.
"The vast majority of the women did not come forward," he said. As a step toward acknowledging and resolving the exploitation of Japanese women, however, it was a complete failure. Though they were free to do so, no Japanese women sought compensation. "Not one Japanese woman has come forward to seek compensation or an apology," Wada said. "Unless they feel they can say they were completely forced against their will, they feel they cannot come forward."
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
April 26, 2007
JAPAN Report Regarding WWII Brothels in Japan
QUESTION: Sort of a bit off regular topics, but the AP had a story yesterday touting it as news and I'm wondering
if it's news to you. But they did an investigation saying that the comfort women in Japan after the war, actually
some of them stayed in those brothels and were probably use of the American soldier there -- some soldiers there.
I'm wondering if you've heard that those comfort women, who had been such an issue in the past several months
because of the Prime Minister's comments, if the Americans actually knew about those brothels and if they --
some of the soldiers used those brothels after the war.
MR. CASEY: It's nothing I've ever heard about. Certainly nothing I've ever seen, but you might want to check the
Department of Defense. I think that they would have records of, you know, issues related to U.S. military presence
there. But, no, it's not a story I'm familiar with.
Sex Trafficking and the Military
I just presented a paper on “Sex Trafficking and the Military” at a conference where I focused on the ‘Occupation Comfort Girls,’ sex slaves raped by the U.S. Military in Japan after WWII.
It recounts how ‘comfort stations’ were set up for American soldiers in Japan in 1945 and stocked with ‘Occupation Comfort Girls’ forced into sexual slavery to service the men.
Details beyond cruelty have emerged: the way some girls were raped 60 times a day; the way demand was so high girls had no time to eat or sleep;
the way men stood two abreast, in lines a block long, at the Yokosuka ‘Rape Station’ (my word for it) to get at the girls imprisoned inside.
The way the men were told to not pay more than 10 yen for a short mount.
Ten yen was less than a pack of cigarettes cost at that time. (Rape is economical.) The men were brought in by the truckloads and told to wear condoms no matter ‘how good it felt.’
I guess rape feels good for the rapist.
The above details are just a sampling of this atrocity.
As for the girls having “some resistance” to selling themselves to enemy men of a different race, the resistance was major:
the girls cried and screamed and tried to run away when the GI’s entered the brothels. Terrified of these huge men, they held onto things to keep from being pushed down and mounted.
Girls who tried to escape were shoved back in by MP’s.
The Japanese have offered ‘comfort girls’ to occupying foreigners since the Dutch. Enslaved girls were set up in ‘kennels,’ like dogs, in port cities and forced to service hundreds of foreign sailors.
Perry’s men would have taken full advantage of the ‘sex slave’ arrangement as well.
Why these particular Japanese whores, the ones given to the GI’s in 1945, touch me so much comes from my own background.
I lived on military bases for the first twenty years of my life, part of that time in Japan, and although it was years after WWII, I saw those tiny mincing timid prostituted Japanese girls
and the big soldiers who bought them and the spectacle of their helplessness,
and poverty, tore at my heart. The sadness in the girls’ eyes haunts me. The way they looked like small children,
barely half the size of their GI rapists, hurt me and I wondered how soldiers could even contemplate forcing sex on a such a childlike body.
The Use and Abuse of the Past
By Hideaki Kase
History is a hot topic in Japan these days, with the country's wartime behavior returning to haunt its citizens.
Many Japanese are dismayed by the possibility that the U.S. House of Representatives will soon demand a
formal apology from Tokyo for the imperial military's alleged use of "comfort women," or sex slaves, during
World War II. This talk has taken the Japanese government by surprise, especially given its unprecedented
support for Washington in Iraq and the war onterrorism.
The world can't comprehend why Japan is reluctant to say sorry once more. But most Japanese can't
understand why issues like the comfort women or the Nanking Massacre have resurfaced at all. Since World
War II, the country has abided by the pacifism forced on it by the U.S. occupation.
To promote such peacefulness, the Japanese media and intellectuals created an image of Japan as a warlike
place that had to be prevented from rearming at all costs. To heighten the danger, the media also exaggerated
or even invented wretched acts supposedly committed by Japan's imperial forces.
In the first years after the nation's surrender in 1945, many of its citizens found this imposed meekness hard
to take. In 1952, for example, the Diet unanimously called for the men convicted by the Allied war-criminal
trials to be treated the same as those honorably killed or injured on the battlefield. Half of Japan's then
population signed petitions calling for the immediate release of incarcerated war criminals, and the major
political parties of the day refused to accept any war guilt.
Japan Unfairly Reviled
By Hideaki Kase
Japanese Author, Historian
April 2, 2007 issue - History is a hot topic in Japan these days, with the country's wartime behavior returning to haunt its citizens. Many Japanese are dismayed by the possibility that the U.S. House of Representatives will soon demand a formal apology from Tokyo for the imperial military's alleged use of "comfort women," or sex slaves, during World War II. This talk has taken the Japanese government by surprise, especially given its unprecedented support for Washington in Iraq and the war on terrorism.
The world can't comprehend why Japan is reluctant to say sorry once more. But most Japanese can't understand why issues like the comfort women or the Nanking Massacre have resurfaced at all. Since World War II, the country has abided by the pacifism forced on it by the U.S. occupation. To promote such peacefulness, the Japanese media and intellectuals created an image of Japan as a warlike place that had to be prevented from rearming at all costs. To heighten the danger, the media also exaggerated or even invented wretched acts supposedly committed by Japan's imperial forces.
In the first years after the nation's surrender in 1945, many of its citizens found this imposed meekness hard to take. In 1952, for example, the Diet unanimously called for the men convicted by the Allied war-criminal trials to be treated the same as those honorably killed or injured on the battlefield. Half of Japan's then population signed petitions calling for the immediate release of incarcerated war criminals, and the major political parties of the day refused to accept any war guilt.
By the 1970s, however, this resistance began to diminish as memories of the war faded and the economy began to boom. Intoxicated by its unprecedented affluence, Japan was willing to ask forgiveness of its neighbors if this proved good for business. In 1993, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologized for Japan's having coerced women into prostitution during the war. Three years later, on the 50th anniversary of Japan's surrender, the Socialist Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama acknowledged that Japanese aggression during the war had caused "tremendous damage and suffering" to many Asian countries.
In recent years, however, long-dormant nationalism has begun to rise again due to several factors. First, during the economic slump that extended into the early part of this decade, the benefits of apologizing became less clear. Second, the conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is 53, and the bulk of his cabinet and aides are in their 40s and 50s. Most don't understand why they should do penance for events that occurred before they were born.
Comfort Women Questions And Answers
I don't understand why this issue was raised lately again.
And It's been getting more and more complicated.
So I'd like all viewers to review it, and know it well if you don't.
It's fairly easy, very simple story.
Question 1: What are the comfort women all about ?
Let's put it this way.
Answer 1: During world war 2 Japanese army and or govt organ organically abducted mostly Korean
women, and forced them to be prostitutes and release soldiers' sexual frustrations.
However govt didn't try to take any responsibility to that.
That's all it is. But I wonder if it's true.
Question 2: Then were Korean women really abducted with coercion ?
Answer 2: Until now concrete grounds that prove abductions haven't been seen.
It's very hard to prove what didn't acrually happen. But if an evidence of a fact hasn't been
submitted, there would be nothing to blame for and or to accuse of.
Then when we think whether there have been concrete evidences or not, we can't find anything.
There has been no evidence.
Question 3: Then what could be the evidences of this issue ?
Answer 3: They are as follows:
1. Documents describing army and or authorities were involved with abductions
2. Proved victim's testimony
3. Proved criminal's testimony
4. Proved witness's testimony
If only one of these evidences is submitted, we would admit the fact of this issue.
Question 4: Is there any document that proves the fact ?
Many people have been wondering why, but actually there is no such document.
Answer4: This was clarified by ex-chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono on Jun 17th 1997 where he
stated the documents that proved abductions hadn't been found.
Then he had already been known for so called 'Kono statements' in that he had admitted
the broad coercion on the prostitutes.
Question5: There should be a lot of victims' testimonies or mere commercial prostitution couldn't
be like this big issue ?
The answer is,
Answer5: Japanese govt interviewed 16 ex-prostitutes for investigation, who had been
selected by the Pacific War Victims Association but the govt didn't even try to
validate or confirm the result of the investigation.
At this point everyone may feel strange that Japanese govt didn't select them by itself,
but anti-Japan Korean entity did. That's to say the first step of the investigation was biased.
Moreover the govt tried to make the investigation spontaneous leaving the result not validated or
confirmed. To make matters worse, ex-lawyer Mizuho Fukushima et al were present there, and none of
testimonies' names and interview contents has been given out. It's hard to think that we can get
proved evidences through such an irresponsible investigation.
The innovative lawyers, calling themselves witnesses, controled the victims' talks so they were
able to prevent the govt from getting useful information for a validation.
Those witnesses were afraid that the victims could speak too much and give the govt information
possibly leading to undesirable result. That's why they had to lead testimonies as they wanted
when answering the questions. And besides the govt itself weren't unmotivated for that
investigation. Despite numbers of testimonies they got, from only 16 victims though, it's ovbious
every single testimony wasn't the proved one. Then what about Korean side ?
There were 155 women who registered as ex-prostitutes. 74 among them were alive in 1992 and a
citizen group called the Council for Measure of the Issue of South Korean Volunteer Corps, this
name itself contains misconception, have 55 women as registrants. The council was able to get in
touch with about 40 women among these 55 and interviewed them. Then it published the result of
interviews as the testimony collection and that was translated in Japanese.
Korean Foreign Ministry assured the book covered all facts of the comfort women. Since then the book has been
the powerful card for Koreans. The detail investigations were done with this book later and even
the Korean citizen group found a lot of conflicts, omissions, errors and distortions. Actually
in the book were only 19 womens' testimonies.
The story is, among all registrated Korean ex-prostitutes who were alive, there were about 40
women the citizen group was able to get in touch. Since they found what many of those women said
were completely wrong, they came to know the testimonies weren't at all reliable enough to be
published. Thus they had to get rid of more than half of the testimonies. As the result there
were only 19 women among all, whose testimonies were identified as the facts. But there were only
4 women whose testimonies were identified as the facts of coerced abductoins. You know what, 2
of them said they were taken to brothels in Toyama and Busan, where brothels weren't installed,
in other words enough validation wasn't done by Korean side. These women should have been removed
from the victim registrants. Only 2 women were left as real victims, they are Kim Haksoon and
Moon Okchu. But the fact was, Kim's mother sold her in 40yen as a prostitute called kiseng.
Moon was deceived by a Korean calling himself Sung who told her to work in a restaurant, and she
was forced to be a prostitute in Burma. After all they weren't coerced prostitutes either.
But being pointed out of their testimonies later, they changed their testimonies.
A changed testimony isn't trustworthy at all. That's all about this issue. How do you think ?
There has been no victim's reliable testimony. None of all registered ex-prostitutes' testimonies
hasn't been reliable at all.
BACKGROUND OF 'COMFORT WOMEN' ISSUE, Yomiuri
Comfort station originated in govt-regulated 'civilian prostitution'
Controversy over the so-called comfort women has been inflamed again. The U.S. House of Representatives has been deliberating a draft resolution calling for the Japanese government to apologize over the matter by spurning the practice as slavery and human trafficking. Why has such a biased view of the issue prevailed? The Yomiuri Shimbun carried in-depth reports on the issue Tuesday. The writers are Masanobu Takagi, Hiroaki Matsunaga and Emi Yamada of the political news department. Starting today, The Daily Yomiuri will carry the stories in three installments.
To discuss the comfort women issue, it is indispensable to understand the social background of the time when prostitution was authorized and regulated by the government in Japan. Prostitution was tacitly permitted in limited areas up until 1957, when the law to prevent prostitution was enforced.
Comfort women received remuneration in return for sexual services at so-called comfort stations for military officers and soldiers. According to an investigation report publicized by the government on Aug. 4, 1993, on the issue of comfort women recruited into sexual service for the Japanese military, there is a record mentioning the establishment of such a brothel in Shanghai around 1932, and additional similar facilities were established in other parts of China occupied by the Imperial Japanese Army.
Some of them were under the direct supervision of the military authorities, but many of the brothels catering to soldiers were privately operated.
Modern historian Ikuhiko Hata, a former professor at Nihon University, says the comfort women system should be defined as the "battleground version of civilian prostitution."
Comfort women were not treated as "paramilitary personnel," unlike jugun kangofu (military nurses) and jugun kisha (military correspondents). During the war, comfort women were not called "jugun ianfu" (prostitutes for troops). Use of such generic terminology spread after the war. The latter description is said to have been used by writer Kako Senda (1924-2000) in his book titled "Jugun Ianfu" published in 1973. Thereafter, the usage of jugun ianfu prevailed.
In addition to Japanese women, women from the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan, both then under Japanese colonial rule, and China, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries invaded by the Imperial Japanese Army were recruited as comfort women.
Hata estimates that 40 percent of the wartime comfort women were Japanese, 30 percent Chinese and other nationalities and 20 percent Korean.
The total number of comfort women has yet to be determined exactly.
According to a report compiled by Radhika Coomaraswany of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in 1996, there were 200,000 comfort women from the Korean Peninsula alone. The figure in the report was based on information Coomaraswany had obtained in North Korea. But this report contained many factual errors, and its quoted sources lacked impartiality. Foreign Minister Taro Aso rejected the figure of 200,000 as "lacking objective evidence."
The reasons cited for the need for comfort women and wartime brothels are as follows:
To prevent military officers and soldiers from raping women and committing other sex crimes in occupied areas.
To prevent venereal disease from spreading through troops who would otherwise contact local prostitutes who did not receive periodic medical checks.
To prevent military secrets from being leaked by limiting the women who provided sexual services to officers and soldiers to recruited comfort women.
Such a system and the use of wartime brothels generally are not limited only to the Imperial Japanese military.
The U.S. troops that occupied Japan after the war used brothels provided by the Japanese side. There was a case in which U.S. military officials asked the Japanese authorities to provide women for sexual services. During the Vietnam War, brothels similar to those established for the former Japanese military were available to U.S. troops, a U.S. woman journalist has pointed out.
Hata said: "There were wartime brothels also for the German troops during World War II. Some women were forced into sexual slavery. South Korean troops had brothels during the Korean War, according to a finding by a South Korean researcher." (Mar. 31, 2007)
No hard evidence of coercion in recruitment of comfort women
This is the second installment on the so-called "comfort women" controversy. The U.S. House of Representatives has been deliberating a draft resolution calling for the Japanese government to apologize over the matter by spurning the practice as slavery and human trafficking. Why has such a biased view of the issue prevailed?
The issue of the so-called comfort women has been brought up repeatedly because misunderstandings that the Japanese government and the Imperial Japanese Army forced women into sexual servitude have not been completely dispelled.
The government has admitted the Imperial Japanese Army's involvement in brothels, saying that "the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women." The "involvement" refers to giving the green light to opening a brothel, building facilities, setting regulations regarding brothels, such as fees and opening hours, and conducting inspections by army doctors.
However, the government has denied that the Japanese military forcibly recruited women. On March 18, 1997, a Cabinet Secretariat official said in the Diet, "There is no evidence in public documents that clearly shows there were any forcible actions [in recruiting comfort women]." No further evidence that could disprove this statement has been found.
The belief that comfort women were forcibly recruited started to spread when Seiji Yoshida, who claimed to be a former head of the mobilization department of the Shimonoseki branch of an organization in charge of recruiting laborers, published a book titled "Watashi no Senso Hanzai" (My War Crime) in 1983. Yoshida said in the book that he had been involved in looking for suitable women to force them into sexual slavery in Jeju, South Korea. "We surrounded wailing women, took them by the arms and dragged them out into the street one by one," he said in the book.
But researchers concluded in the mid-1990s that the stories in the book are not authentic. On March 5 this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the House of Councillors Budget Committee that Yoshida's story does not prove that women were forcibly recruited. He said: "I think it was The Asahi Shimbun [that reported the story] that a man named Seiji Yoshida testified about his having searched for comfort women. But later [Yoshida's testimony] was found to have been made up."
As the comfort women issue started to take on political and diplomatic dimensions, some people in South Korea and also in Japan confused comfort women with female volunteer corps, strengthening the misbelief that there was coercion.
Female volunteer corps were, according to a historian Ikuhiko Hata's book "Ianfu to Senjo no Sei" (Comfort Women and Sex in the Battlefield), single women aged between 12 and 40 who were mobilized to work in factories, starting in August 1944, primarily to secure necessary labor.
There were cases in which malicious brokers sweet-talked women with promises of easy money or intentionally concealed from them what life was going to be like in brothels.
The War Ministry wrote a letter, dated March 4, 1938, to the troops dispatched to China. The letter, titled "Regarding the recruiting of women at the army's comfort stations," said there were malicious brokers who were recruiting women in a way "similar to kidnapping."
It said, "Nothing should be overlooked so that the military's prestige and social orders are maintained." The letter indicates how the Imperial Japanese Army tried to make sure that women were not forcibly recruited.
However, in the confusion of war, elite Imperial Japanese Army soldiers who were on the fast track for officer status sent detained Dutch women to a brothel in Indonesia. The incident came to be known as the Semarang incident.
The Imperial Japanese Army Headquarters closed down the brothel immediately after learning of the incident, and soldiers involved received severe punishment--some were sentenced to death--at a war crimes court convened by the Dutch Army after the war.(Mar. 31, 2007)
Kono's statement on 'comfort women' created misunderstanding
The Yomiuri Shimbun
This is the third and last installment on the so-called "comfort women" controversy. The U.S. House of Representatives has been deliberating a draft resolution calling for the Japanese government to apologize over the matter by spurning the practice as slavery and human trafficking. Why has such a biased view of the issue prevailed?
What made the issue of "comfort women" a political and diplomatic one was an article in the Jan. 11, 1992, morning edition of The Asahi Shimbun. The newspaper reported that official documents and soldiers' diaries that proved the wartime Japanese military's involvement in the management of brothels and the recruitment of comfort women had been found at the library of the Defense Ministry's National Institute for Defense Studies.
The article said Koreans accounted for about 80 percent of comfort women from the time that brothels were established and that the women, said to have totaled 80,000 to 200,000, were forcibly recruited under the name of volunteer corps after the Pacific War broke out.
As the newspaper's report came out immediately before then Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa's visit to South Korea, it triggered anger among the South Korean public. During his visit to the nation, Miyazawa met with then South Korean President Roh Tae Woo and was quoted as telling him, "It can't be denied that the Japanese military--in some way--was involved in the recruitment of comfort women and the management of comfort stations."
On July 6, 1992, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Kato released the results of a study showing that the wartime military was directly involved in such things as the operation of "comfort stations," but documents to prove that forcible recruitment actually took place were not found.
But as South Korea's criticism over Japan's actions continued, the government issued an official statement on the issue on Aug. 4, 1993, which became known as the Kono statement, after the government official who delivered it, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.
But Kono's statement included ambiguous expressions and gave the impression that the government had acknowledged forcible recruitment by wartime Japanese authorities.
Regarding the recruitment of comfort women, the statement said: "The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, and so on, and that, at times, administrative and military personnel directly took part in the recruitment."
The statement also said the recruitment, transfer and control of comfort women on the Korean Peninsula was "conducted generally against their will." This expression became a strong indication that women, in most cases, were taken in a forcible manner.
By issuing the statement, the government aimed to seek a political settlement over the issue, as South Korea pressed the Japanese government hard to recognize that forcible recruitment actually took place. Then Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobuo Ishihara, who was involved in compiling the statement, said, "As there were no documents to prove forcible recruitment, it was concluded, out of comprehensively made judgments based on testimonies of [former] comfort women, that [recruitment] was forceful."
Kono's statement did not resolve the issue. Instead, it spread misunderstanding both inside and outside the nation on the "forcible recruitment" by government authorities.
A U.N. Human Rights Commission report, compiled by Radhika Coomaraswamy, referred to comfort women as sex slaves, and called on the Japanese government to compensate these women and to punish those responsible. The report reached these conclusions partly on the grounds of Kono's statement.
Mike Honda, a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives who led lawmakers in submitting a draft resolution denouncing Japan over the comfort women issue, also referred to Kono's statement as a basis for the draft resolution.
However, observers have pointed out, and The Yomiuri Shimbun reported on the morning edition of March 16, that there are certain factors regarding Honda's electoral district--such an increase in the number of residents of Chinese or South Korean origins, while the number of Japanese-origin residents has decreased--that may be behind why the Japanese-American lawmaker of California is leading such an initiative.
Given the Kono statement, the government in July 1995 established an incorporated foundation called the Asian Women's Fund. It has provided a total of about 1.3 billion yen in compensation for 364 former comfort women. Letters of apology from successive prime ministers--Ryutaro Hashimoto, Keizo Obuchi, Yoshiro Mori and Junichiro Koizumi--also were sent to those women.
On Oct. 5 at the House of Representatives Budget Committee, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe indicated a stance to "inherit" Kono's statement in principle, while denying forcible recruitment by government authorities.