On "the Statements by the Chief Cabinet Secretary on the ex-comfort women"

August 31, 2012 2:35 PM

Q. What was the background of the Statements by the Chief Cabinet Secretary on the ex-comfort women?

A. At the time of the Miyazawa Cabinet, the ex-comfort women from Korea filed lawsuits and President Roh Tae-Woo of South Korea raised the comfort women issue during Miyazawa's visit, raising awareness among the countries involved.

In December of 1991, the Japanese Government ordered the Police Agency, Ministries of Defense, Foreign Affairs, Education, Health and Welfare, and Labor to conduct research on the Government's involvement with the war time comfort women cases. On July 6th of 1992, the Cabinet Secretariat published an official report titled, "The Ex-Comfort Women Issue in the Korean Peninsula."

The Report said:
"The research has found war-time documents which mentioned that the unlawful sexual acts against the local citizens by the Japanese military men in the occupied area provoked anti-Japanese sentiments and slowed down the restoration of civil order. There were also written orders to strictly regulate individual activities of the Japanese military men and to establish appropriate comfort facilities in a swift manner. Some documents found by the research emphasized the importance of comfort facilities since the facilities would lead to the uplift of morale, maintenance of military discipline, and the prevention of crimes and STDs.

The papers found even mentioned that the person in charge of recruitment of the comfort women must be selected carefully in order not to hurt the dignity of the military and to prevent local problems.
The research clearly showed that that the military supervised the construction and the management of the comfort facilities. Official rules and regulations were issued to regulate the hours of usage by each troop, the usage fee, and safety precautions such as the mandatory usage of a contraceptive device and regular STD testing by a medical officer, in order to guarantee hygiene control of the comfort women.
The research has found a military telegram from Japan to the troops in the occupied area that recruited local women were about to be shipped to the facilities.
In conclusion, there has been confirmed evidence that the Government was indeed involved in the ex-comfort women cases."

Then Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Kato issued a Statement, "The Chief Cabinet Secretary Statement on the Ex-Comfort Women Issue in the Korean Peninsula (the Kato Statement)," admitting that the Government was indeed involved in the establishment, usage and maintenance of the comfort facilities.

The Government continued with research on related documents from domestic sources and documents from the U.S. National Archives, and conducted hearings from 16 ex-comfort women.

Another research report was released by the Cabinet Secretariat on August 4th, 1993. The report established that many of the comfort women were cajoled or coerced into service by the traders, along with government authorities,.

On the same day, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued a Statement, which is now called the Kono Statement.

Q. What is the major issue concerning the Statements?

A. Whether recruitment of the comfort women involved coercion and force.

The Kono Statement pointed out that the recruitment process was done with cajolement and coercion against the will of the female victims, with the government directly lending a hand in some cases. The Statement also said that many comfort women came from the Korean Peninsula which was under Japanese control at the time, and the recruitment, transportation and management were mostly done against the will of those women.

The previous government report admitted that the Government was involved in the comfort women issue, but there was a controversy on whether the recruitment actually involved coercion.

Q. Was there any written document to back up the founding of the research that said the military and government were actually involved in the coercive recruitment?

A. Prime Minister Abe and his Cabinet officially denied the existence of any written documents to back up the involvement of the government and military in the written answer to a Parliamentary question on March 16th of 2007.

Q. What did then Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Nobuo Ishihara say about the research?

A. In "Oral History" published by the Asian Women's Fund in 2007, Ishihara stated as the following:

"We gathered numerous documents, but we could not verify any signs of coercion. No written evidence was found, but the actual hearing of the 16 ex-comfort women tells us that they were forced into prostitution. Some criticize that whether or not there was coercion should not be determined by the hearings of the victims only. We believe, however, that out of those 16 women, a large majority were forced to become comfort women against their will. Neither the Japanese nor the South Korean government put any pressure on the hearing process; it was done fairly. The Japanese Government decided to respect the results of the hearing, and that led to the confirmation of the coercion."

Q. Is the content of the actual hearings disclosed?

A. No, the transcript of the hearing is still classified.

Q. Was the Kono Statement a Cabinet decision?

A. No, it was not a Cabinet decision.

Q. Then what was it?

A. It was the will of the Cabinet expressed as a statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary.
Then Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Nobuo Ishihara also said in "Oral History" that the Statement was released with a unanimous consent of the Cabinet members. It is the will of the government, not an action of a specific individual, and therefore the Cabinet is responsible for its content.

Q. Has this will of the Cabinet been handed down since the Miyazawa Cabinet?

A. Every Cabinet since Mr. Miyazawa's has expressed their agreement to the Statement.

Q. How could the Kono Statement be revised or retracted? Who has the authority?

A. The will of the Cabinet is passed onto the new Cabinet unless the Prime Minister explicitly expresses his disapproval. In order to revise or retract the Statement, the new Cabinet would need to issue a new statement that expresses a revised perspective or opinion of the Cabinet. Either the Prime Minister or the Chief Cabinet Secretary would issue a new statement.
Some facts that contradict the report issued on August 4th of 1993 may lead to such an action.

Q. Can the Kato Statement or the Kono Statement be altered if the person himself changes his opinions?

A. Statements made by Chief Cabinet Secretaries are the will of the Cabinet, not of any individual. Hence, a change in the statement would require a change in the view of the entire Cabinet. The opinions of the individual releasing the statement have no relevance to the alteration of the statement.