Rewriting Japan's sex slave past

Prime minister says there's no evidence of WWII "comfort women."

Published March 2, 2007 10:25PM (EST)

This is more than a little crazy-making: Dogged pressure on the Japanese government to cough up compensation for women who survived sexual enslavement to members of the country's military during WWII has led to an all-out denial that the atrocities ever happened. (Never mind that the government offered an apology in 1993 for the crimes, thereby acknowledging that they happened.) Yesterday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion."

Oh, but historians disagree. They estimate that up to 200,000 women were forced to work at "comfort stations" -- brothels run by the Japanese military. There's testimony from "comfort women," their families and Japanese soldiers that corroborate that fact, reports the Associated Press. There are also historical documents that detail the relationship between Japanese authorities and "contractors" who acquired the women.

There shouldn't be any surprise over Abe's personal rewriting of history -- especially when it comes to chronicling how women were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops. Earlier, we reported that as deputy chief cabinet secretary, he successfully "urged" a Japanese television station to tone down its report about "comfort women" after he deemed it "biased."

The House Committee on International Relations' resolution in September asking Japan to acknowledge the atrocities and stop efforts to rewrite history through favorable accounts in textbooks couldn't prompt an official avowal. So it's unlikely that a statement today from 50 lawmakers ordering that Abe retract his recent remark will accomplish much of anything.

But we would love to be proved wrong.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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