The subject of “comfort women” suffers a similar misrepresentation as the issue of climate change
The discussion gets repeatedly derailed by people that are uninvolved and simply misunderstand the issue. Personal opinions are being thrown around from people who are seemingly misinformed, just like the subject of climate science. There needs to be more effort put into researching and educating around this uncomfortable cultural issue in Japan.
It could be argued that the Japanese government’s apologies started off as genuine, but the genuine nature of successive apologies seemed to have declined in time. Aside from initial efforts to compensate Korea’s war victims, when the true extent of this particular atrocity came to light the 1990’s, Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa apologised officially, both publicly and privately to the Korean President and the National Assembly. This sincerity was repeated in the 1994 by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama who wrote personal apologies to hundreds of victims. However, this was all undone in 2007 when Shinzo Abe questioned evidence of government involvement in the matter during his first term as Prime Minister.
However there is a problem, as a historical issue where evidence is sometimes pieced together to gain a scale of the issue, there is some level of debate as to the scale of this crime, the official number is currently held anywhere between 50,000 and 200,000 women. Despite this there has been a push to remove any mention of the issue from history textbooks, there has been numbers instances of politicians and the media defaming victims and there are some outright deniers of the facts. In this way it is comparable to climate change, even though it is a studied science that is being taken seriously by most people, there are a group of climate change denialists that disbelieve all evidence. With the uncomfortable historical truths there are always going to be some that doubt personal accounts from an ideological perspective, but the debate over specific details risks derailing the issue in the public forum, an issue also affecting climate science.
The main Japanese government response to this issue came in form of the “Kono Statment” released in 1993 by Yōhei Kōno. The statement was the result of a two year study into comfort stations run by the Japanese Military during World War Two, and it found that the military were both directly and indirectly responsible for coercion of women into forced prostitution. This statement was met with fierce criticism and a backlash that led to a new push in questioning evidence that subsequently strained Japanese-Korean relations.
Therefore, if the Japanese government are serious about solving this issue and improving ties with South Korea, they should make efforts to ascertain the truth of what happened, and then act accordingly; apologise and compensate, to individuals, not to governments. One study of two years may not be long enough to grasp the magnitude of such a divisive issue, the government should first put together an international and impartial group of historians, to carry out a longer study and then make efforts to reeducate accordingly. Just as with climate science, the government should be putting themselves into the strong position of wanting to close any loopholes of thought, and address the issue for what it is, not pander to any ideological notions of patriotism.