Intoxicated by its unprecedented affluence, Japan was willing to ask forgiveness of its neighbors if this proved good for business. In 1993, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologized for Japan’s having coerced women into prostitution during the war. Three years later, on the 50th anniversary of Japan’s surrender, the Socialist Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama acknowledged that Japanese aggression during the war had caused “tremendous damage and suffering” to many Asian countries.
In recent years, however, long-dormant nationalism has begun to rise again due to several factors. First, during the economic slump that extended into the early part of this decade, the benefits of apologizing became less clear.
This interpretation of the 1993 apology completely ignores the impetus why the apology was tendered at that particular moment. In 1992, several former comfort women stepped into the spotlight and Japanese, American and Korean scholars unearthed related documents.
Kase goes on to accuse Korea and China of cynically using the comfort women issue as political ammunition:
Seoul did not even raise the comfort-women issue, for example, when it normalized relations with Tokyo in 1965; it was Japanese leftists who finally broached the topic in the 1980s.
I have little desire to justify the Park Chung Hee regime’s utter neglect of Korean citizens (as well as Koreans living in Japan) during the 1965 negotiations. But perhaps attitudes needed to change first before the comfort women could become a more mainstream topic for discussion, for example, the concept of rape as something that didn’t rob women of their total meaning, or the idea that exploitation of women isn’t just to be expected.
Also this emphasis on governmental action or inaction is also problematic. So your government has to always intercede for you? Civilian suffering is meaningless without a state imprimature of outrage?