Asian ‘comfort women’ to file suit against Japan


The trial session, to be held Dec. 8-12 in Tokyo, is to be sponsored by a voluntary Japanese civic organization called “The Violence Against Women Brought by War,” a spokesman for the organization said.

Two former comfort women from each of the six nations will make representations in the court to accuse Japan of war crimes and its government of irresponsibility.

More than 200,000 young women from Taiwan, mainland China, South Korea, North Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia were forced to serve as sex slaves for the Imperial Japanese Army some 50 years ago.

According to an investigative report released early last year by National Taiwan University Lecturer Lee Kai-min and Chiang Mei fen, between 1932 and 1945 in Taiwan alone, nearly 2,000 women were sent by the Japanese army to military brothels in Southeast Asia and Okinawa.

The report said that although half a century has passed, the comfort women are still suffering, with half of them divorced or having never married, while 60 percent of them suffer from infertility.

Until 1992, the Japanese government denied that its military was involved in running frontline brothels during the war and even though it later admitted the existence of the brothels, it has refused to apologize or provide compensation to the surviving comfort women, saying that all questions of compensation have already been settled with the nations concerned.

The Japanese government instead set up a private Asian Women’s Fund in June 1995 which offers to give each surviving comfort woman 2 million yen (about US$17,000) in compensation.

However, most of the surviving women, including those from Taiwan, have turned down the offer because the money came from private donations rather than from the Japanese government.

In November 1994, the International Commission of Jurists concluded a one-year investigation into the comfort women with the finding that Japan violated customary norms of international law concerning war crimes, crimes against humanity, slavery, and trafficking in women and children. It urged Japan to “take full responsibility now, and make suitable restitution to the victims and their families.”

During the mock court session, prosecutors from the six countries will submit bills of indictment, and the comfort women will give their accounts of the accusations.

A verdict to be handed down by the court on Dec. 12, though non-binding in nature, will be jointly reached by law experts from the six nations and Japan and will become a historical record.

In addition to the 12 former comfort women, now in their 70’s or 80’s, more than 300 people from the six nations, together with 700 from Japan, mostly human rights activists, will attend the session.

Nine former comfort women from Taiwan in July last year launched a lawsuit in a Tokyo court against the Japanese government, asking for a formal apology in addition to compensation of 10 million yen for each of them. Comfort women from other countries have also filed seven similar lawsuits in Japanese courts.