Japan’s Statement on the Kono Statement

Within the past hour Japan issued its statement on the Kono Statement.

Issued in August, 1993, the Kono Statement acknowledged for the first time “the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women.”  In a contemporaneous news article,  the New York Times reported on South Korea’s reaction:

South Korea, where most of the women were seized, expressed qualified approval for Tokyo’s admission. “We appreciate the fact that in its latest report, the Japanese Government now acknowledges that coercion was involved in the entire process of recruiting, transporting and managing ‘comfort women,’ ” the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We also appreciate the fact that the Japanese offered an apology.”

As late as June 17, 2014, Seoul’s Foreign ministry reiterated (according to Yonhap News) “that Japan’s 1993 statement acknowledging the Japanese imperial army’s mobilization of wartime sex slaves was made based on Tokyo’s own investigations and judgment.”  From the cited Yonhap News article,

The Kono statement was written based on Japan’s own judgment on the issue, (foreign ministry spokesman Noh Kwang-il said in a briefing), adding that the Korean government made clear that it is not a document needed for prior consultation or agreement with another country.

Arirang News released the following,

Japan announced in its findings today that according to latest Japanese reports the review says the Korean government also played a role in the wording of the Kono statement. Japan’s Jiji News Agency reports that Seoul and Tokyo held discussions on what the statement will look like, under the condition that their dealings be kept a secret. This will definitely trigger heavy criticism from South Korea.

All this leaves observers asking “why?

UPDATE:   In addition to the statement that the Korean government played a role in the wording of the Kono Statement,  Japanese media is reporting  the report claims the Japanese government did not verify the validity of testimonies given by 16 Korean comfort women who were the basis of the Kono Statement.

UPDATE 2:  Although Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference  that Japan will continue to uphold the statement and not seek to revise it or change the government’s official stance, China’s Shanghai Daily connected the dots:

In essence, the panel has suggested that the findings were inaccurate, if not fallacious, and the final statement itself unsubstantiated, in a move that quickly drew the ire of the South Korean Foreign Ministry who blasted the Japanese government saying its action were “deeply regrettable” and a “contradictory and pointless act.”

Unfortunately, I agree.  Japan’s panel’s 21 page report on the Kono Statement seems to have pulled much of the punch behind the Kono Statement by questioning the validity of statements, findings, and testimonies underlying the Kono Statement.

Korea’s Joong Ang Daily reported that Japan’s panel found “in the drafting of the Kono Statement, ‘there was intensive and detailed mediation with the Korean government’….”

The Japan Times, which described the crafting of the statement as a “tug of war”, went into more of the contentious details of the negotiation.  Among them, “the report further states that Seoul indicated that if Japan did not comply with the revisions, it would not accept the Kono apology in a positive way” and “the Korean side told Tokyo that ‘it has a policy not to seek financial compensation.’ ”

From a practical standpoint, I find Japan’s panel’s finding that Korea had significant input credible for the simple reason that Japan could not risk issuing a statement that Korea would reject; however,  I find Japan’s revelation of such nonetheless duplicitous.

Regardless of the extent of Korea’s input, Japan signed it.

UPDATE 3:  For those straining to hear the voice of reason and the  supposed silent majority in Japan, The Japan Times published an editorial on its English website, Stop Undermining the Kono Statement.  The following is an excerpt:

If the government is to uphold the 1993 statement, as it says it will, then the Abe administration needs to do what the statement says Japan will do and make proactive efforts to settle the long-running dispute, instead of repeatedly attempting to play down the nation’s responsibility for the ordeal of the women forced into wartime sexual slavery.

…Following the release of the review’s outcome, the Abe administration repeated that it would not change the Kono statement. If that’s the case, then the administration should wholly commit itself to what Japan said in the statement, and seek to repair ties with South Korea that have been strained at least in part by its attempt to question the stance of past Japanese governments on this matter.

  • brier

    Glad you got this early, before the spin starts to happen. It is going to get dizzy around here.

  • kaizenmx

    This is a nation that refuses to acknowledge the rape of nanjing. Pretty sure denying this is nothing to them.

  • wangkon936

    This will complicate any back channel discussions to resolve this issue by the Korean and Japanese governments since it would appear that the Japanese have made it clear that they will disclose what they had previously promised what they wouldn’t disclose.

  • redwhitedude

    Looks like the Japanese might have opened another front with incidents like this. Now what? Apologize to feminists?


  • Gubook

    I’ve always wondered how large or affluent the Japanese far right is. My own shallow impression is that governments tend to push these sort of campaigns to distract away from sagging economies, but I understand the general, run of the mill Japanese to be either sympathetic towards those victimized by the Imperial government or completely ignorant that any of this stuff even went down. Who exactly is Abe trying to impress?

  • bumfromkorea

    But hey, as long as they apologized.

  • redwhitedude

    By consulting with Koreans which is prudent.

  • Tapp

    “Who exactly is trying to impress?”

    This a thousand times over. I don’t understand when any party in any country publicly presents far rightwing or far leftwing ideas. The argument is that it helps to mobilize their political base, but I think it’s more effective at alienating the middle. It’s a separate issue entirely, I know, but the US GOP of my youth hasn’t received a vote from me since they stopped being about Big Business and started being about Billy Graham, less blue blood and more blue-goose loony. (Eastern Asia is admittedly a little different in that the young netizens seem to be the most fervent nationalists. In the US, it tends to be the old or the uneducated that are the most xenophobic.) If Abe had any intelligence or prowess on the international stage, he would sit back and say nothing, continuing to make PGH look like the stubborn leader who won’t meet him halfway. Instead, this report comes out at zero benefit to any of the parties involved.

    As the pre-updated OP concluded… “Why?”

  • DC Musicfreak

    Easy cheap votes and support from an entrenched minority, small in number but embedded in Shinto shrine organizations and veterans groups. My take is that the most difficult part of Abenomics — untangling a protectionist web of regulations that holds together the LDPs empire of special interests — is going nowhere. So perhaps Abe is doubling down on the pandering.

  • Aja Aja

    Japan and Korea should take the case to the International Court of Law. The loser has to fess up for the wrong things done by reading an official apology at the UN, and then pay the victims with proper compensation.

  • redwhitedude

    Who are the victims?

  • Sumo294

    Hmmmnnn . . . very accurate statement. However–I think its more than that–at its core I think the current elites of Japan believe its necessary in the long term that Japan must go nuclear–they are divided in my opinion on how to achieve that goal.

  • Aja Aja

    Depends on who’s point of view. Korean comfort women, or Japanese who feel they are victims of Korean harassment over this issue.

  • Aja Aja

    The Korean government’s response, as of June 22, after they examined the Japanese review of the Kono statement, is that Japan conveniently changed the wordings in several places to make it look like Korea was dictating Japan what to write. So the Korean government is disputing Japan’s version of what happened. The first thing they did was to call the Japanese ambassador in Seoul to launch a protest.

  • redwhitedude

    But if the Japanese win they’ll probably push their luck and try to water down or retract the statement. This will in turn provoke the Korean side to cry foul. If Koreans win the Japanese won’t be taking it lying down.

  • redwhitedude

    It seems like the Japanese are trying to wiggle out their way out of this statement.

  • Aja Aja

    Korea and Japan should take the entire case of the comfort women to the international court. Korea says they existed, Japan says they were hired prostitutes. Let the international courts decide who is right. Both sides should specifically state what is expected from the losing side, and let the judges decide the punishments, then let this issue be the final end. Any side who tries to water down or deny the result, will only bring international ridicule and attention.

  • redwhitedude

    Some how I doubt a “final” ruling form the international courts can end this. Koreans are too worked up about this and the Japanese have a habit of denying or watering this down. Perhaps the international courts would be better off handling some other cases instead.

    It’s about as useful as if they tried to handle the dispute between Japan and China over the Diayou/Senkaku and dispute between China and Vietnam.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    Aja Aja: “Korea and Japan should take the entire case of the comfort women to the international court.”

    I don’t think Korea should take the comfort women issue to the world court because I think the case would likely get summarily tossed out. The ICJ has jurisdiction it two types of cases: contentious issues between states and advisory opinions on properly submitted questions of international law.

    If Korea, which is not among the signatories to a declaration recognizing the jurisdiction of the court as compulsory, presses the comfort women as a legal issue, Japan will likely assert Article II, Section 1 of the Agreement Between Japan and the Republic of Korea Concerning the Settlement of Problems in Regard to Property and Claims and Economic Cooperation:

    The High Contracting Parties confirm that the problems concerning property, rights, and interests of the two High Contracting Parties and their peoples (including juridical persons) and the claims between the High Contracting Parties and between their peoples, including those stipulated in Article IV(a) of the Peace Treaty with Japan signed at the city of San Francisco on September 8, 1951, have been settled completely and finally.

    Diplomatic channels is the way to go on this one.

  • Aja Aja

    Korea can counter that was before the Comfort women were first known in 1991.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    From another practical standpoint, I don’t foresee Korea, particularly against Japan, pressing any claims at the ICJ because that would expose Korea to Japan’s filing a claim about Dokdo at the ICJ.

  • piratariaazul

    I don’t get it….

    I enter into a contract and sign a written agreement.
    The terms of the written agreement were arrived at after much haggling with the other party…
    … Therefore, I must not have meant it ?
    … And therefore I can repudiate it ??

  • Aja Aja

    They should take both cases to the court.

  • redwhitedude

    It sounds like the Japanese were trying to paint this thing as if Korea imposed it on them.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    redwhitedude: “It sounds like the Japanese were trying to paint this thing as if Korea imposed it on them.”

    I suspect that is only a means to an end. The end is that Japan, depending on its audience, can have it both ways: 1) we apologized and stand by the Kono Statement, and 2) the facts the Kono Statement was predicated upon were not necessarily factual or supported.

    In essence, Japan can now assert that rather than a unilateral statement, the Kono Statement was negotiated much like a treaty, trade agreement, or, worse, bill in Congress. As with most negotiated agreements, parties sign onto the pact as a whole although they likely disagree with or not approve of certain line items.

  • redwhitedude

    It sounds like the Japanese are pulling crap over this. And of course a lot of others countries won’t give a dam about it.

  • Anonymous_Joe

    The Chosun Ilbo reaffirmed its market leading position in fear-mongering, histrionics, and plain wrong analysis:

    Japan Inches Closer to Severing All Ties with Korea

    “At Washington’s behest, Seoul and Tokyo have been taking baby steps to mend frayed relations, but the latest action by the Abe administration falls little short of an official attempt to sever all diplomatic ties.”

  • Aja Aja

    And the person who headed this “probe” was actually a right wing Japanese historian who claims that the women were prostitutes.


  • redwhitedude

    Japanese need to rein in those clowns.

  • bumfromkorea

    Or, at the least, stop voting for them repeatedly.

  • redwhitedude

    These japanese need to stop being so apathetic. It looks like Abenomics in the long run isn’t going to help.

  • Aleksej Klimov

    Leaving Japan aside for a moment, Koreans are unable to come to terms with their own history. The Heremit Kingdom never disappeared; Koreans live it every day. Thus, any reasoning has to be done on Korean conditions.

  • Sumo294

    What alternative do they have? Abenomics is the only plan on the table as of now. Spend more government money to prime the system–its been tried already.

  • bumfromkorea

    Starting with “Leaving Japan aside for a moment” on a post about Japan’s statement on the Kono statement? Might as well say “The following is a red herring meant to distract y’all.”

  • bumfromkorea

    The most recent voter turnout rate was around 59%, which is comparable with the US voter turnout in 2012(57.5), 2008 (62.3) and 2004 (60.4). Certainly not as high as South Korea’s last general election (75.8), but it’s not low enough for the “apathy” argument to be valid.

    Clearly, the Japanese people vote and care about the elections: http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?CountryCode=JP

    Whatever is going on in Japan, it seems more likely that the “silent majority” is just a myth.

  • redwhitedude

    Why is it that they vote politicians who say outrageous things from time to time? Do they even think twice about that at all? Maybe they need to be more concious about whom they vote in.

  • redwhitedude

    The problem with preceding administrations is that they were fumbling around and not getting anywhere hence they got voted out and reverted to the policies that rack up debt. It’s not like they are going anywhere.

  • Aleksej Klimov

    Your comment proves my point. Thank you for that.

  • jk641

    This is ludicrous.
    Korea didn’t force Japan to issue the Kono Statement.

    Japan finally decided to take responsibility for the comfort women issue in 1992, after decades of denials, when a Japanese researcher unearthed documents that incriminated the Japanese military.

    (Though, Korean comfort women did sue the Japanese govt in 1991. That was what prompted Yoshimi to start searching for said documents.)

    Japan could no longer hide, so that’s why they apologized.

    (However, the Japanese right-wingers have been unapologetic from the beginning.
    Right now, the right-wingers are in charge, so that’s why they’re trying to amend the Kono Statement.)

  • bumfromkorea

    Hey, anything I can do to help you with your 정신승리.

  • wangkon936

    Highly vocal minority. Extremely passive and indifferent majority.

  • ikillaleksejklimovifew98592

    I’d gladly fucking rip your guts out, moron.

  • Aleksej Klimov

    As I said: you prove my point. And again. Many thanks for doing so.

  • ChuckRamone

    The most practical solution currently available is lots more immigration but that is not gonna happen in Japan.

  • ChuckRamone

    I think the current in vogue phrase “victim blaming” applies to your comment.

  • redwhitedude

    Instead of going after PGH nominees why not go after the press? Just sack the editorial staff and sell this to foreign media companies.

  • bumfromkorea

    No problem. Enjoy your 정신승리!

  • wangkon936

    I bet he had to Google Translate that.

  • bumfromkorea

    Oops. I guess that was a bit inconsiderate. How, er, “klownish” of me. 😉

  • Aleksej Klimov

    I do not think so.