An apology from Japan is sought over sex slaves

Times Staff Writer

Gearing up for a historic world conference in Los Angeles on the sexual enslavement of women and girls by the Japanese military, human rights activists from around the world, including former sex slaves, demanded Wednesday that Japan issue an official apology and make reparations to the victims of Japan’s wartime crimes.

During an hourlong protest in front of the Japanese Consulate downtown, protesters also said Japan must come to terms with its past by revising Japanese textbooks to accurately reflect the history of Japan’s wartime atrocities.

“Why is Japan not doing the right thing like Germany?” said Robert Tsang, former president of the Los Angeles chapter of Global Alliance to Preserve the History of World War II in Asia, referring to Holocaust reparations paid by Germany. With each passing day, victims are dying, he said.

The Japanese Consulate referred to an earlier statement, which said in part that Japan in 1993 had acknowledged “involvement of former Japanese military authorities in the comfort women issue and expressed apologies and remorse to those who endured immeasurable pain and incurable wounds.” The Japanese government has said in the past that the wartime brothels were set up without government sanction.

The demonstration, attended by about 50 people, including Japanese citizens, was reminiscent of a weekly Wednesday protest that has been held in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul since 1992.


Carrying placards in the shape of butterflies -- signifying transformation -- participants said they were encouraged by the recent passage in the U.S. House of Representatives of a resolution that calls on Japan to formally apologize for its wartime coercion of women and girls into brothels maintained by the military. The women were euphemistically known as “comfort women.”

Ken Arimitsu, an official of the Tokyo-based group supporting the former sex slaves, said that, as a Japanese national, he wanted to apologize for what his country had done to its Asian neighbors. The Japanese government, he said, is not in step with many Japanese citizens who support the women and are working to correct the wrong.

The global conference on Japanese military sexual slavery begins today and continues through Saturday at UCLA. Scholars, lawyers and activists from around the world will be meeting, in part, to study the legal basis for demanding legal reparation from the Japanese government.

The Japanese military’s use of sex slaves was rumored after the end of the war but did not become widely known worldwide until 1991. Researchers say more than 200,000 girls and young women from throughout Asia were conscripted by the Japanese military to serve the Japanese troops from the 1930s to 1945.