“Comfort Women” resolution to reach Foreign Affairs panel
By Roxana Tiron
June 20, 2007
A months-long effort by a Korean-American grassroots lobbying campaign will culminate next week when the House Foreign Affairs Committee takes up a resolution calling on Japan to acknowledge formally and accept responsibility for sexually enslaving women during World War II.
In a twist, the campaign’s recent victory comes partly because a group of Japanese politicians and academics last week took out an ad in The Washington Post saying there is no proof women were forced into sexual enslavement.
The group published the ad despite opposition from others in the Japanese government and the Japanese Embassy in Washington, which has been trying to convince Congress not to take up the resolution, sponsored by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) and insisting Japan already has apologized to the “comfort women.”
Several congressional sources said members who were ambivalent about Honda’s measure now support it. “Now there is more support for the measure than ever,” a congressional source, who asked not to be quoted by name, said.
Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced at a Saturday fundraiser in Los Angles that Honda’s resolution, which currently has 140 cosponsors, will be marked up Tuesday.
The highest concentration of Korean-Americans is in California, particularly around Los Angeles. A large number of Korean-Americans live in the Bay Area as well. Lantos’s district office is in San Mateo, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) district is in San Francisco.
The grassroots campaign could propel Korean-American groups to the league of ethnic groups with strong lobbies and networks, such as the Cuban-Americans, the Jewish community and Taiwanese-Americans. In the first six months of the year, the Korean grassroots effort has raised about $100,000, much of which was spent on advertising campaigns.
During its occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands between the 1930s and World War II, Japan used as many as 200,000 young women from Korea, China, the Philippines and in some cases Western Europe for sexual servitude in a program designed to increase the efficiency and morale of Japanese soldiers. The women were subject to beatings, sexual violence and torture.
Honda’s bill says the “government of Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as ‘comfort women.’”
According to material provided by the Japanese Embassy, the Japanese government has extended official apologies on several occasions. One came in 1994 from then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama during the 50-year commemoration of the war’s end.
Outgoing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi sent personal letters to former comfort women to convey Japan’s remorse, according to the embassy.
The Asian Women’s Fund was established in 1995 to raise awareness and prevent such abuses, but supporters of the House resolution note that the fund is private. Tokyo argues that the fund was established with cooperation from the government and the Japanese people, and that the government contributed funds for the organization’s operating costs as well as its medical welfare support projects.
Some critics of the congressional action say a resolution would create tensions between the United States and Japan, America’s top ally in Asia.
Several sources have indicated that Lantos would not have taken up the resolution without Pelosi’s support. Lantos predicted at the Korean-American fundraiser held in his honor that the resolution will have a strong vote in committee and that the resolution will pass “by a very substantial margin” in the House.
Japan has less than a week to try to convince Pelosi and Lantos not to take up the bill. Once passed in the committee it would be hard to stop, according to a source close to Japan.
The White House is more interested and concerned about the resolution than it was before, the source said. The Bush administration considers the legislation to be potentially harmful to the U.S.-Japan relationship.
The Japanese Embassy has been working with Hogan & Hartson as well as Hecht, Spencer and Associates to raise awareness about what it has done to address the issue. It also hired the Fratelli Group to handle its PR in Washington for a limited period.
The group that took out the Post ad is not part of the Japanese political mainstream, according to the source. The politicians, considered a fringe mix of ultra-nationalists and ultra-conservatives, want to see the resolution passed to “drive a wedge between Japan and the United States — they think that Japan has been too friendly and compliant with the U.S,” the source said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe alarmed many in the international community in March with comments viewed as denying the Japanese military’s direct role in forcing women to work in brothels throughout Asia. The Japanese government said Abe’s comments had been misunderstood and that he stands by an apology made by the government in 1994.
Before his visit to Washington, Abe raised the issue with President Bush, saying that he empathized with the victims.
Abe also met with a joint session of Congress in part at the behest of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who opposes Honda’s resolution, saying that it would negatively affect Japanese-American relations. Inouye, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Lantos, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) met with Abe, who raised the issue and said Japan made official apologies to the comfort women.
Inouye wrote a letter to Honda and Lantos expressing his position. “A lot of people in the Asian community were disappointed that he was against the resolution, but did not confront the senator publicly out of deep respect,” a source within the Asian-American grassroots effort said.
* kavc님에 의해서 게시물 이동되었습니다 (2008-07-29 05:50)