Comfort women: After Seoul-Tokyo entente, Taiwan wants similar deal

Comfort women

The recent deal on “comfort women” between South Korea and Japan has stirred hopes for the victims and their families in Taiwan and China.  The deal propelled Taipei to demand a similar apology and appropriate compensation for the women used as wartime sex slaves from Republic of China.

“The ROC’s long standing stance regarding the issue has been to request that Japan make a formal apology and compensate the Taiwanese comfort women,” said Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou.

Under the terms of the deal with South Korea, the Japanese government will offer one billion yen (£6 million) in compensation for the war atrocities against the “comfort women” enslaved during the Second World War by the Japanese troops under the rule of Emperor Hirohito. This is accompanied by a request for forgiveness from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who expressed an “apology and repentance from the bottom of his heart”. Moreover, both the leaders have promised not to create an issue of this disgraceful event by mentioning it on any international platform.

It seems that Japan is trying to burnish its image and redeem its imperialistic past by doing right by the victims of the war crimes during the Second World War, since Japan has readily agreed to initiate negotiation starting in early January so that an effective and direct channel of communication can be established regarding the issue. Moreover, the Taiwanese Foreign ministry is also going to hold discussions on the issue on January 6 with the representatives of the victims to negotiate compensation and reach an agreement.

Tens of thousands of women were used as “comfort women”, but among these, Koreans formed the maximum of them. Other nations which had to bear this savage atrocity were China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Philippines.

China has issued several statements which reflect criticism and suspicion about the deal initiated by Japan. Beijing, too, wants that Tokyo should atone for excesses committed by its imperial army in the 1930s/40s and take steps to provide appropriate compensation, but they are highly sceptical of sincerity in Mr. Abe’s words and actions. The misgivings in China were reflected through their media, campaigners and experts after the announcement of the deal on December 28 between Seoul and Tokyo.

Lu Kang, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of China, said: “The Chinese side always maintains that the Japanese side should face up to and reflect upon its history of aggression and properly deal with the relevant issue with a sense of responsibility.” He was also suspicious about the success of the deal, saying: “We are looking forward to seeing whether the Japanese side will do what it has promised.”

“During the Second World War, Japanese militarism forcefully recruited ‘comfort women’ across China,” said spokesman Lu Kang, while alluding to Japan’s wartime practice of keeping sex slaves. “They have committed a grave crime. We urge the Japanese side to take seriously the concerns of the relevant parties and deal properly with the issue.”

Chinese writer Liu Xinda was clearly not impressed by Tokyo’s alleged duplicity. “You can compensate South Korean comfort women, but when it comes to Chinese comfort women, you renege on your debts,” Liu wrote on his Weibo microblog. “They are all comfort women; on what grounds do you draw distinctions between them?”

In Japan, the debate continues to rage on Mr Abe’s motivations behind the dramatic apology to Seoul. Probably, Mr Abe, who wants to re-establish Japan as a regional power by gradually re-militarizing the country, is using “comfort women” apology as a tool to soften up the voters and portray a more benevolent image.

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