Representative Mike Honda (CA-17) and Comfort Women Survivor Ms. Lee Yong-soo (photography from Segye.com)

Representative Mike Honda (CA-17) and Comfort Women Survivor Ms. Lee Yong-soo (photography from Segye.com)

On Aprli 21st, several Representatives, through Congressional Special Orders, urged Prime Minister Abe to apologize for Imperial Japanese forces wrongdoings during World War II. These remarks included a central message that Mr. Abe must acknowledge and apologize for crimes against humanity like the “Comfort Women” atrocity and that his upcoming joint session address should include such an apology.

A “Comfort Woman” survivor, Ms. Lee Yong-soo was in attendance when these Special Orders were delivered on the floor in the House of Representatives.

First, Representative Steve Israel (NY-03; click for profile and text of the speech) argued that Mr. Abe must address his government’s historical responsibilities in his speech next week, as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and as the trilateral relationship among the U.S., Republic of Korea, and Japan “will play a pivotal role towards peace and prosperity throughout the world.” He further suggested that Mr. Abe’s address must address Japan’s wartime history, because “[t]o ignore past atrocities, Mr. Speaker, is to ensure a very troubling future.”

Representative Bill Pascrell (NJ-09) joined in and remarked that he hopes that Japan and Korea, as close allies and friends of the U.S., “to communicate and to foster an ability to work together productively.” Drawing on his support for H.Res. 121 of 2007, also known as the “Comfort Women” Resolution, Representative Pascrell urged Mr. Abe to take steps toward apology and reconciliation, especially regarding the Imperial Japanese forces’ military sexual enslavement of women and girls across Asia. He also vowed that the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, that he is a member of, will always continue working to “ensure that our children and our children’s children will inherit a world where these types of atrocities are a thing of the past.”

As a leading champion of the human rights issues of “Comfort Women” survivors, Representative Mike Honda (CA-17) spoke next. Congressman Honda introduced the horrible atrocities the victims of Imperial Japanese forces’ military sexual enslavement had to endure, by illustrating the examples of Ms. Jan Ruff O’Herne, Ms. Kim Hak-sun, and Ms. Lee Yong-soo, last of whom was in attendance that night. Drawing on the US Congress’ urging as outlined in H.Res. 121 of 2007, Representative Honda reiterated the Congress’ message and argued that Prime Minister Abe must unequivocally and formally acknowledge and apologize Japan’s past in his joint session address, like the precedents of the Tomiichi Murayama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Further, Representative Honda cited recent human rights violations committed against women of all ages in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and elsewhere and shared his hopes that “Prime Minister Abe will take the privilege to address the joint meeting of Congress and finally and firmly apologize and commit to educating the future generations honestly and humbly. The spirit of these women—these girls—deserves no less.”

Representative Grace Meng (NY-06) and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) stood together in this voice through letters. Representative Meng expressed her hope that the prime minister “uses this opportunity to clarify any remarks that have been interpreted as a revocation of the Kono Statement.” Representative Sheila Jackson Lee also drew the prevalence of domestic and sexual violence in America today and “called[ed] on to the Japanese government to apologize to the few women who continue to live with the shame of the crimes committed against them.”

The texts of members of Congress mentioned above can be accessed through the links on their names, and the Congressional Record of April 21st is available at this link.

 

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