Korea raises sex slavery issue at UN

March 5, 2014

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se

By Kang Seung-woo

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se urged Japan, Wednesday, to take responsibility for forcing Korean women into sexual slavery during World War II and make sincere efforts to resolve the matter.

In a keynote speech to the 25th regular session of the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, Yun denounced Tokyo’s recent move to revise its 1993 apology over “comfort women,” a Japanese euphemism for sex slaves, calling it “contrary to the U.N.’s repeated recommendation to resolve the issue.”

This was the first time since 2006 that the nation’s top diplomat attended the UNHRC session, and also marked the first time for a Korean foreign minister to make a speech there on the issue of women who suffered sexual enslavement by the Japanese imperial army.

Yun said that Japan should accept governmental responsibility, take responsible measures, and educate current and future generations with regard to the sex slave issue.

“Without repenting past wrongdoings, a brighter future will not be secured,” Yun said.

He said sex slavery is “not only a bilateral issue between Japan and other victimized countries ― including Korea, China, the Netherlands and various Southeast Asian countries ― but is also a universal human rights issue, an unresolved issue still haunting us today.”

His call comes as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Cabinet have ramped up their aggressive nationalistic stance.

Recently, Japan’s Senior Vice Minister of Education Yoshitaka Sakurada said that the issue of sexual slavery was a fabrication and called for a re-examination of supporting testimony.

In addition, the Japanese government plans to review testimony previously given by Koreans used to draw up the “Kono Statement,” a landmark apology for its imperialist past issued in 1993.

Yun called Japan’s move “an added insult” to the honor and dignity of those victims who suffered physical and psychological pain in a life haunted by bitter memories.

“Such an attitude is an affront to humanity and disregards the historical truth,” he said. “In addition, it is a direct challenge to consistent recommendations to Japan made by various U.N. mechanisms for the last 20 years.”

Korea was colonized by Japan between 1910 and 1945 and up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were coerced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers, according to historians. Of the 237 Korean women who have come forward as former sex slaves, only 55 are still alive.

Seoul has repeatedly urged Tokyo to sincerely apologize to the victims and compensate them, only to be snubbed.

In response to the repeated denials of history, President Park Geun-hye urged Japan on Saturday to stop denying its wrongful past and face up to history. Park has consistently rejected Abe’s requests to hold a summit due to his flawed perception of the past.

Along with the sex slave issue, the foreign minister called for the international community’s efforts to help improve poor human rights conditions in North Korea and commended a U.N. Committee of Inquiry’s (COI) recent report revealing the North Korean regime’s brutal human rights violations.

Last month, the UNCOI announced that the North’s leadership has committed, and is committing, crimes against humanity on an unprecedented scale, recommending that the U.N. should refer the details gathered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and have those responsible prosecuted, including North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“We hope North Korea will take substantive measures, recognizing the committee’s call to improve its human rights situation,” Yun said.

He added that South Korea will support tougher U.N. measures against North Korea for such crimes against humanity, urging concerned countries to stop repatriating North Koreans who have fled the Stalinist state.

One Comment

  1. Chiu Kok-chiung

    August 31, 2015 at 1:25 AM

    According to former British prime minister, Winston Churchill, only
    barbaric subhumen would have subjected war prisoners to ruthless physical tests – by freezing war prisoners to sub-zero degrees and
    breaking their arms and legs with steel bars like the Japanese soldiers did during WWII. Similarly, only the same type of subhumen would have driven young and innocent women in Korea, China, Taiwan,
    the Philippines and Indonesia into years-long sexual enslavement!

    Save some breath, fellows. They are not genuinely civilized humans
    although they appear civilized and polite!