Berkeley APALSA periodically releases statements on issues and events pertinent to the Berkeley Law and AAPI communities
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
RE: “Comfort Women”
Dear Mr. President:
In your upcoming discussions with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga this month, we respectfully request that you encourage him to offer full and unequivocal apology and compensation to the women, girls, and boys from dozens of countries coerced into Imperial Japan's Asia-Pacific War military comfort stations.
We, the undersigned, believe that it is paramount for the U.S. government to actively engage with Japan in resolving the “Comfort Women” issue and that it is in the interest of the U.S. to do so. This international human rights issue truly lies at the forefront of the strained diplomatic relations between the Republic of Korea and Japan, and yet, numerous half-baked attempts to resolve the issue, without focusing on restoring dignity and justice for the “Comfort Women” survivors, have only deepened the decades-old distrust between these two key allies of the U.S. in Asia. Only when the “Comfort Women” issue is fully resolved in a victim-centered manner will the trilateral relations between the U.S., Japan, and the Republic of Korea move forward.
On March 9, 2021, the Japanese government held a meeting to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality. At this meeting, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga instructed his Cabinet to step up efforts to promote gender equality in the nation. If he is serious about this goal, he must first align his government's perspectives on women's rights and the realities of violence against women, both historically and for the future. It is impossible for Japan to accept international norms regarding gender equality without first accepting that the "Comfort Women" were victims coerced into sexual slavery.
An unequivocal apology would entail either a Cabinet Decision or a Diet Resolution embedding it into the Japanese legal regime, and a statement of apology to all victims of the system by the Prime Minister in front of the global media. Government reparations would entail funds from the Japanese government (and not from private institutions) to be paid directly to the victims and their families based on the aforementioned legal regime, as well as funds to support programs of education and healing not only about the "Comfort Women," but also about violence against women and wartime sexual violence.
Most importantly, the Japanese government must end its support of campaigns to distort and deny Imperial Japan's WWII military history toward the "Comfort Women." We have painfully observed through Harvard Law Professor J. Mark Ramseyer’s article, “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War,” that historical denialism and revisionism are still very much in existence not only in Japan, but also here in the U.S. and abroad. State-funded projects focused on denying the coercion of “Comfort Women” or demanding the removal of memorials in the City of Glendale and elsewhere in the U.S. or in the Philippines must also stop.
If the Japanese government continues to maintain its contrafactual position that the "Comfort Women" were not sex slaves but were voluntary prostitutes, the issue should be referred to the International Court of Justice to be tried and judged once and for all. We welcome an opportunity to discuss with you or your staff about a path forward.
April 5, 2021
Harvard Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Berkeley Asian Pacific American Law Student Association
Columbia Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Cornell Asian Pacific American Law Student Association
Duke Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Georgetown Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Michigan Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
New York University Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association
Northwestern Law School Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Stanford Asian and Pacific Islander Law Students Association
UChicago Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
UCLA Asian Pacific Islander Law Students Association
University of Pennsylvania Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
University of Virginia Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Yale Asian Pacific American Law Students Association 2020–2021 Executive Board