2020: Reconsideration of Japanese Colonialism

"Trostfrauen" - Comfort Women
Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal 20th Anniversary Online Symposium

How Can We Use the Judgement and Testimonies of The Womenʼs International War Crimes Tribunal to Create A Better Future?
Towards an end to colonialism and impunity for sexual violence

Reconsideration of Japanese Colonialism from the 2000 Tribunal

Kohki Abe

(Faculty of International Studies, Meiji Gakuin University)

In the preface to “Theory of Colonial Responsibilities,” one of the books which should be referred to when discussing colonialism in Japan, Yoko Nagahara, who is the author and editor of the book, shows the following recognition

Since the 1990s, there has been a marked movement all over the world to seek responsibility and demand an apology and compensation for slave trade, slavery, or colonialism in the past.

Speaking of an apology and compensation for colonialism in the past in Japan, we can easily recall a series of arguments on women who were forced to serve as ʻcomfort womenʼ by the Japanese military during World War Ⅱ and lawsuits filed by Koreans and Chinese who were forced into hard labor. Traditionally, these matters have been discussed within the framework of ʻWar Responsibility Theory.ʼ These matters, however, also have something additionally to do with the issue of responsibility for colonialism and slavery in the past, meaning that the ʻcomfort womenʼ system is sexual slavery inseparably connected with colonial rule (and occupation). For the forced laborers, this connection arises in relation to the fact of their status as slave laborers in the colonies were.

As Ryeon-Ok Song says, there is no doubt that “from the perspective of colonized Taiwan and Korea, the ʻFifteen Yearsʼ Warʼ phrase is an incorrect term,” and “It was actually a ʻFifty Yearsʼ Warʼ from the beginning of the First Sino-Japanese War,” and “a system in which state
power (government・military・police) used pimps to encourage, force and ensure soldiers bought sex, and which was was born together with the Modern Japanese Empire and was developed in line with the Empireʼs expansion of territories and militarisation.”2  

At the beginning of not a few claimant petitions in a series of postwar compensation lawsuits seeking recognition of 
perpetrator responsibility on the side of Japan, such as a compensation claim cases launched by Korean victims during the Asia-Pacific War, of whom one plaintiff included Hak-Song Kim, Womenʼs International War Crimes Tribunal 20th Anniversary Online Symposium (12/12/2020) Part1 etc., Japanʼs colonial responsibility, which had existed far before the war of aggression, was mentioned as a premise of particular facts of suffering. The same applies to the Common Indictment of ʻThe Womenʼs International War Crimes Tribunal on Japanʼs Military Sexual Slaveryʼ (hereinafter referred to as ʻTribunalʼ), ʻFACTUAL BACKGROUNDʼ of which states as follows. ..."

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