Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that there is no evidence that Japan forced women into sexual slavery during World War II, reversing the country’s previous position. In 1993, the Japanese government issued an apology for playing a role in establishing and managing wartime brothels that forced over 200,000 women – known as comfort women – from Korea, China, Taiwan, and elsewhere into sexual slavery. Prime Minister Abe, however, told reporters, “There is no evidence to back up that there was coercion as defined initially… It was not as though military police broke into people’s homes and took them away like kidnappers,” the New York Times reports.
Lee Yong-soo, a surviving comfort woman who was taken from her home in 1944 by Japanese soldiers and forced to work in a brothel in Taiwan, has become an activist around Japan’s treatment of comfort women. “The Japanese government must not run from its responsibilities. I want them to apologize and to admit that they took me away when I was a little girl to be a sex slave,” Yong-soo told the Telegraph.
After its 1993 apology, Japan created a fund that would aid surviving comfort women in 1995. The fund, which will expire at the end of March, is supported by private donations only and receives no government funding.
US Representative Michael Honda (D-CA) has introduced a non-binding resolution that would ask Japan to formally apologize to comfort women. Abe has indicated that he will not apologize even if the US passes the resolution, the New York Times reports.