[Open Letter] South Korean NGOs call to US Congress
27 April, 2015
Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Vice President and President of the Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Honorable John A. Boehner
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Representative Kevin McCarthy, Majority Leader │ The US House of Representative
Representative Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader │ The US House of Representative
Senator Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader │ The US Senate
Senator Harry Mason Reid, Minority Leader │ The US Senate
Senator Bob Corker, Chairman │ Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Representative Edward R. Royce, Chairman │ House Foreign Relations Committee
Representative Mike Honda │ The US House of Representative
Secretary John Forbes Kerry │ The US Department of State
Ambassador Mark Lippert │ The US Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
Dear Mr. President of the Senate and Mr. Speaker,
We are the members of four civil society organizations of the Republic of Korea – Women’s Forum for Peace and Diplomacy, Korean Women’s Bar Association, Civil Peace Forum, and People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy – which are working toward reconciliation and peace-building in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. We are writing to you out of conviction that much greater progress should be made toward reconciliation and peace in Asia region on the occasion of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit and speech in Washington D.C. on April 29.
This letter requests you, members of the US Congress, to urge Mr. Abe to voice clearly and publicly a “heartfelt apology” for its colonial rule and aggression, including military sexual slavery, known to the world as ‘comfort women’ during and before the World War II in his upcoming speech before the joint session of the US Congress.
At the outset, we would like to express our deep appreciation for the adoption of House Resolution 121 in July 2007, which called Japan to unequivocally acknowledge, apologize, and be responsible for the coercive recruitment and the enslavement of women forced to work as sex slaves during the World War II. With the resolution, US reminded the international community of the importance of having justice.
We have also noted that Japan supported the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security which recognize the unique impact on women of armed conflict and signed the UN Declaration on the Prevention of Sexual violence in Conflict and that it had offered strong support to the UK summit on sexual violence in conflict.
However, the government of Japan did not show the same vigor to carry out its commitments to reality. It is sad and painful to see that the old ladies, the victims of wartime slavery, are passing away one by one without their rights restored nor receiving the reparation to which they are entitled.
Japan’s Prime Minister Abe is showing a revisionist stance and even attempting to rewrite history. Mr. Abe has refused to honor 1995 Murayama Statement which expressed remorse for the tremendous damage that Japan had caused its neighbors through its colonial rule and aggression. This has been considered Japan’s definitive apology. In the frame of ‘reinterpretation’, he is also denying the Kono Statement which admitted to the coercive recruitment of “comfort women”. Mr. Abe attributes the responsibility of recruiting women as sex slaves to private recruiting agents.
Recently, we sense that among some US political leaders and under the premise of pragmatic reasons certain diversion is suggested to focus on the issues of future interest rather than to dwell on the past. This worries us because such suggestions can be abused in concealing the wrongs of the past committed by Japan and in encouraging Abe to distort history without remorse and in legitimizing his provocative act.
This year is the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and the 70th anniversary of North-South division of Korea. Before its defeat in the WWII in 1945, Imperial Japan, by waging war and colonizing and occupying territories, brought about great damage and suffering to Asia and the Pacific region. Upon ending the WWII, Germany that waged war in Europe was divided, but in East Asia including Korea which was liberated from the Japanese occupation was divided instead of Japan, which had waged war.
We vividly remember that US after ending the war in Asia exonerated Japanese Emperor from being criminally charged with war crime as well as from being deposed. Aided by such US blunders in the aftermath of war, Japan did not have to go through a wrenching process of self-examination and of de-Nazification that happened in Germany. Many Asian nations are still suffering the effects of such evasion and the fast aging comfort women are victimized twice.
When the governments and civil societies of both Republic of Korea and Japan, are reconciled in earnest through honestly confronting the truth, we believe it will eventually serve the good and the interest of US government and people. On the other hand, if Japanese government keeps evading truthfully acknowledging and repenting the criminal act of war in the past, it is not only Japan that might fail to exert leadership in promoting peace in the East Asian region, but US leadership may face corresponding challenges. This is a worrisome prospect. The memories of the atrocious Japanese colonial rule and aggression in the past in many of its neighboring countries are deeply etched, and therefore, cannot be simply erased.
The women organizations and civil societies of the Republic of Korea thus sincerely implore US Congress to share the following points when Prime Minister Abe addresses the joint session of US Congress on April 29.
1. It is an undeniable historical fact that Japan was the WWII aggressor and brutally colonized and ruled its neighbors. We plead with you to make it clear to Prime Minister Abe that Japan should admit and show remorse for the past atrocities against its neighbors to build just and peaceable future.
2. It is our heartfelt hope for US Congress to express clear message to Prime Minister Abe to repent and to settle the matters of “comfort women”. We ask you to remind Prime Minister Abe that the first step toward solving the issues of past is to acknowledge Japan’s responsibility and compensate the “comfort women”.
3. Japanese government not only refuses to show remorse for its past history of aggression, but to rationalize the expansion of military intervention, it is trying to amend peace articles in its Constitution, which has been a safeguard against act of aggression. What Prime Minister Abe and his government are trying to do, in the name of active pacifism, amounts to disrupting stability and creating a threat to peace in East Asia. We ask US Congress to pay due attention to these recent threats to people in East Asia.
If Prime Minster Abe is warmly received in Washington, D.C. without showing sincere efforts and progress to redress Japan’s past atrocities, people in Korea will be greatly disappointed. If it happens so, we are worried, Prime Minister Abe’s first ever speech in Congress would rather send a wrong message to the nations in East Asia as well as to the whole world, and correspondingly damage the US leadership.
We plead with you in both Houses of the US Congress to send a strong signal to Mr. Abe to reexamine his position on the issues of the past so that the aging comfort women and other women of the world can be given a reward of truth and justice. We anxiously look forward that the 70 anniversary of the end of WWII brings a moment of true reconciliation and peace to East Asia and further to the world.
Nakkyun Shin | Chairperson, Women’s Forum for Peace & Diplomacy
Myungsook Lee | President, Korean Women’s Bar Association
Hyunback Jung | Co-Chairperson, Civil Peace Forum
Kyun Kim | Co-Representative, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy
Women’s Forum for Peace & Diplomacy : Ms. Nakkyun Shin (Former Member of the National Assembly │ Former Minister of Ministry of Culture and Tourism) | Dr. Youngho Kim (Chairman, Korea Sustainability Investing Forum) | Dr. Samuel Lee (President, International History NGO Forum │ Former General Secretary, Korea Commission for UNESCO) | Dr. Younghee Kim (Former Ambassador) | Dr. Jungok Lee (Professor, Catholic University of Daegu) | Dr. Keumsook Lee (Professor, Sungshin Women’s University) | Dr. Kyungsim Koh (M.D. of Mai Clinic) | Dr. Wonhee Lee (Former Professor, Hong Ik University) | Ms. Sangok Lee (Activist, Ecology and Peace) | Ms. Okhee Park (Representative, Lee & Park Gallery) | Dr. Jeongeun Lee (Lecturer, Yonsei University) | Dr. Youngai Chung (Professor, Seoul Cyber University) | Ms. Kyungran Moon (Chairperson, The Human Rights Committee of Seoul & Metropolitan government) | Dr. Hyejung Lee (Lecturer, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies) | Mr. Chulyoung Jang (Professional Photographer) | Ms. Myungsook Lee (Lawyer) | Dr. Gina Yu (Professor, Dongguk University) | Dr. Yoonhee Kang (Professor, Kookmin University) | Ms. Younghee Choi (Former Member of the National Assembly) | Dr. Oksoong Cha (Former Professor, Hanil University & Presbyterian Theological Seminary) | Ms. Zongza Yee (Representative, Korea Women’s Political Forum) | Ms. Keikyung Lee (Former Member of the National Assembly) | Ms. Hyunsook Lee (Former Vice President, Korean Red Cross)
Korean Women’s Bar Association : Ms. Myungsook Lee (President) | Ms. Eunsoon Choi (Senior Vice President) | Ms. Jung Sook Yang (Senior Vice President) | Ms. Eunkyung Lee (Senior Vice President) | Ms. Hyunuk Choi (Senior Vice President) | Ms. Soojin Kim (Auditor) | Ms. Kyunga Lee (Vice President of Education) | Ms. Jiyoung Kim (Vice President of International Affairs) | Ms. Meekyung Cha (Vice President of General Affairs) | Ms. Jeeeun Lee (Secretary of Finance) | Ms. Hyunhwa Park (Secretary of General Affairs) |Ms. Sookyung Jung (Secretary of Human Rights) | Ms. Jungah Chun (Vice President of Human Rights) | Ms. Hyunhee Choi (Vice President of Human Rights) | Ms. Youngmi Kim (Vice President of Human Rights) | Ms. Hakja Kim (Vice President of Legal Affairs) | Ms. Boram Kim (Vice President of Public Relations and Media) | Ms. Sookhee Kim (Vice President of Finance) | Ms. Jiyeon Lee (Vice President of Finance) | Ms. Youngok Kim (Vice President of Finance) | Ms. Youngsook Song (Board Member) | Ms. Junga Chun (Board Member) | Ms. Mijin Ko (Vice President of Business Management) | Ms. Jeeeun Lee (Chairperson of the corporate counsel special committee)
Civil Peace Forum : Mr. Youngsik Kang (Co-Chairperson, Civil Peace Forum │ Secretary-General, Korean Sharing Movement) | Ms. Keumok Kim (Co-Chairperson, Civil Peace Forum │ Standing Representative, Korean Women’s Association United) | Mr. Boowon Nam (Co-Chairperson, Civil Peace Forum │ Secretary-General, Korea Young Man’s Christian Association) | Mr. Changil Park (Co-Chairperson, Civil Peace Forum │ Chairperson of Operation Committee, Peace3000) | Mr. Seunghwan Lee (Co-Chairperson, Civil Peace Forum │ Joint Chairperson, Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation) | Ms. Hyunback Chung (Co-Chairperson, Civil Peace Forum │ Co-Representative, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy) | Mr. Wooksik Cheong (Representative, Peace Network) | Mr. Hyungon Jung (Chairperson of Policy Committee, Civil Society Organization Network in Korea)
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) : Mr. Kyun Kim (Co-Representative, PSPD) | Mr. BUB IN (Co-Representative, PSPD) | Ms. Kangja Jung (Co-Representative, PSPD │ Professor of Gender Law, Inha University) | Mr. Sunsong Park (Chair of Policy Advisory Committee, PSPD │ Professor, Dongguk University) | Mr. Youngjong Jin (Chair of Steering Committee, PSPD │ Professor of English, Sungkonghoe University) | Ms. Jeongin Kim (Vice Chair of Steering Committee, PSPD │ Professor, Chuncheon National University of Education) | Mr. Joongbae Kim (Advisory Committee, PSPD) | Ms. Yeonja Lee (Advisory Committee, PSPD │ Director, Eundeok Cultural Center) | Mr. Gilseong Yang (Advisory Committee, PSPD │ Director, Green Hospital) | Mr. Youngdo Choi (Advisory Committee, PSPD │ Lawyer) | Mr. Kyeongju Lee (Chair of Center for Peace and Disarmament, PSPD │ Professor of School of Law, Inha University) | Mr. Taeho Lee (Secretary-General, PSPD) | Ms. Jungeun Park (Deputy Secretary-General, PSPD)
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