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Comfort Women Issue in Korea and Japan: Complicity and Complacency?

Pat Hein
Philipps-Universität Marburg
Pat Hein
Philipps-Universität Marburg
Open Panel

Abstract

The comfort women issue has been in a deadlock since the 1980s and the UN High Commissioner has therefore recently appealed in Tokyo to deal once and for all with the issue by apologizing and providing redress to thousands of mostly Asian women submitted to sexual slavery by the Japanese imperial army. Surprisingly, Japan and Korea have colluded in the past in muting the claims of former comfort women. But not only Governments have failed to offer redress. Civil society organisations in both coutries as well have been unable to put hands together and put joint pressure on their respective governments. The papers explores the root causes for the failures of the governments of Korea and Japan as well as civil society organisations in both countries to achieve results in terms of apology. admission of guilt, reconciliation, memory conservation and transitional justice. The paper examines why international norms and continuous pressure from outside have not affected the internal political dynamics and processes in Korea and Japan in the case of sexual slavery. A comparison with Germany where slave labor has been compensated by passing legislation in 2000 offers a framework for the context of successful transitional justice. Reference: Hein, Patrick, Patterns of war reconciliation in Japan and Germany, East Asia, June 2010, Vol 27:2, pp 145-164