18 Jun 2017 12:10

North American Students in Solidarity with the Victims of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery

On December 28th, 2015, the South Korean and Japanese governments announced a “final and irreversible resolution” of the issue of former "Comfort Women," a euphemism for survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery roughly during the Second World War. An estimated 200,000-400,000 girls and young women, as young as 11 years old, were forced, abducted, and coerced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army. While most of the victims were Korean, the "Comfort Women" included Chinese, Filipino, Indonesian, Burmese, Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, Taiwanese, and even Dutch victims.

Major advocacy groups, including the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan and the House of Sharing, have rejected this so-called "agreement" because it deliberately fails to concede true responsibility for the crime. The victims, now in their nineties, have consistently demanded that Japan recognize its "legal responsibility." Instead, Japan merely acknowledged the "involvement of the Japanese military authorities," distorting the truth that the military was the central organizer and perpetrator.Without the acknowledgment of state responsibility, there is no assurance that this history would be included in Japanese textbooks; that remaining perpetrators would be indicted; and that the numerous government officials who falsely insult survivors as “prostitutes” would be held accountable.

The concern that this apology is nothing more than Abe's attempt to silence the survivors was confirmed within weeks of the announcement. Merely a month passed before the Japanese government again denied that the women were sex slaves; Japanese lawmakers continue to call victims "prostitutes"; Abe recalled the ambassador to Korea to protest a statue commemorating victims in Busan. Indeed, Prime Minister Abe premised the entire agreement on his "commitment to stop future generations from having to repeatedly apologize." Where is his remorse for allowing this issue to stall for so long, despite the decades of protest? Where is his grief for the women who passed away year after year waiting for an official apology from Japan?

Moreover, the "agreement" urges the removal of the “Girl Statue” in front of the Japanese Embassy, a memorial built by civilians in order to commemorate the victims. The survivors are adamant that the statute must remain in place as a reminder of the injustice. If the apology is sincere, why does the Japanese government insist on the monumental statue’s removal?

As Hiroka Shoji of Amnesty International stated, “the women were missing from the negotiation table and they must not be sold short in a deal that is more about political expediency than justice. Until the women get the full and unreserved apology from the Japanese government for the crimes committed against them, the fight for justice goes on.”

We, the undersigned, stand with the survivors and their ongoing fight for justice. A settlement for crimes so personal and devastating cannot be final without the consent of the victims. We demand that the Korean and Japanese governments nullify the "agreement" and recognize the individual claims of comfort women. We demand that the "Girl Statues" in Seoul and Busan remain untouched, as a symbol of true repentance and hope for peace and reconciliation. We further demand that the Japanese government admit state responsibility for military sexual slavery; issue an official apology recognizing legal responsibility; and provide legal reparations to the victims.

* If you have any questions or opinions about this statement, please contact: or

** This petition is open only to students currently enrolled in undergraduate, graduate, and/or professional programs in North American colleges and universities.

*** Once we reach 1,000 signatures, we plan to release the petition to Korean and English-speaking media. Your email addresses will not be published; we collect email addresses only to verify that you are a current student at a North American institution.

**** Resources for further information:

United Nations Economic and Social Council, January 1996, Commission on Human Rights; Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences (1994/45):

Animation video of survivor narratives (Jan. 2014):

Japan and South Korea Settle Dispute Over Wartime ‘Comfort Women’ (The New York Times, Dec. 28, 2015):

One survivor's reaction to the bilateral agreement (CBS NocutNews, Dec. 29, 2015):

Abe's Distortion over Comfort Women Recurs (The Korea Times, Jan. 19, 2016):

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