Measures Taken by the Government of Japan on the Issue known as "Comfort Women"
October 14, 2014
The Government of Japan launched a thorough fact-finding study on the issue known as comfort women in December 1991 and announced its results in July 1992 and in August 1993. Public documents found as a result of such study are now open to the public at the Cabinet Secretariat. On the occasion of the announcement of the findings in 1993, the then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono released a statement and expressed in it sincere apologies and remorse, recognizing this issue was, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, a grave affront to the honor and dignity of a large number of women. The Government of Japan has since expressed its sincere apologies and remorse to the former comfort women on many occasions.
Recognizing that the comfort women issue was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of a large number of women, the Government of Japan, together with the people of Japan, seriously discussed what could be done to express their sincere apologies and remorse to the former comfort women. As a result, the Asian Women's Fund (AWF) was established on July 19, 1995 in order to extend atonement from the Japanese people to the former comfort women. Having decided to provide necessary assistance to the AWF through a Cabinet decision in August 1995, the Government of Japan, with a view to fulfilling its moral responsibility, provided all possible assistance for the AWF, including bearing all of its operational costs, assisting its fund-raising and providing necessary funds to implement its activities (approximately 4.8 billion yen from the AWF's founding through fiscal year of 2005), in order for the AWF to attain its goals. The AWF disbanded in March 2007 with the termination of the project in Indonesia.
1. Cooperation for the Asian Women's Fund
The Government of Japan cooperated with the AWF in implementing its activities. Atonement projects were conducted in the Philippines, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan and concluded by the end of September 2002. Some of the former comfort women who received the atonement money expressed their gratitude in various ways.
In addition, the AWF implemented activities tailored to domestic conditions in the Netherlands and Indonesia as well. Activities in the Netherlands and in Indonesia were completed successfully on 14 July 2001, and in March 2007 respectively.
(1) The Philippines, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan
The AWF made it its principle to respect the wish of each of the aged former comfort women in the Philippines, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan where the identification processes of comfort women were implemented by their Governments or relevant organizations. Based upon this principle, the AWF, making use of the money donated by the Japanese people as its resource, provided the former comfort women with the atonement money as a symbol of the feeling of atonement by the Japanese people. Making use of the fund disbursed by the Government of Japan, the AWF also implemented medical and welfare support projects aimed at improving their medical and welfare conditions. When the atonement money was provided, successive Prime Ministers, on behalf of the Government, sent a letter expressing apologies and remorse directly to each former comfort woman. In the end 285 former comfort women accepted the letter and atonement money (The Philippines: 211, ROK: 61, Taiwan: 13).
The Government of Japan has expressed its sincere apologies and remorse regarding the comfort women issue on various occasions.
When the atonement money was provided and medical and welfare support project were conducted, the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, sent a letter expressing apologies and remorse directly to each former comfort woman.
b. Atonement from the Japanese People
The Government of Japan made great efforts to raise public awareness and gain a better understanding of the comfort women issue. The Government provided all possible assistance to the AWF for its fund raising from the public to express atonement to the former comfort women.
As a result, a wide range of individuals, companies, labor unions, political parties, Diet members and Cabinet Ministers demonstrated their support for the cause of the AWF. The total amount of donations to the AWF was approximately 600 million yen.
In July 1996, the AWF decided that the Fund would provide 2 million yen to each former comfort woman in the Republic of Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan from those donations. It also decided that 3 million yen (in the ROK and Taiwan) and 1.2 million yen(in the Philippines) be provided to those women as part of its medical and welfare projects, whose source was government contributions. As a result, each former comfort woman received 5 million yen in the ROK and Taiwan and 3.2 million yen in the Philippines.
Together with the atonement money and the letter from the Prime Minister of Japan, a letter from the President of the AWF, explaining the purpose of the activities of AWF, and messages from the contributors were also conveyed to each former comfort woman.
c. Medical and Welfare Support Projects funded by Governmental Resources
In order to fulfill its moral responsibility, the Government of Japan decided to disburse about 700 million yen (final disbursement: 510 million yen) from the national budget for the medical and welfare projects of the AWF to assist the former comfort women in the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan over a 5-year period.
The projects included activities such as (i) the improvement of housing, (ii) nursing services and (iii) assistance in the provision of medical services and medicines. They were carried out with the cooperation of the respective governments, authorities and other relevant organizations, taking fully into account the actual circumstances of each of the former comfort women.
The Government of Japan and the AWF explored the most appropriate project to be implemented in Indonesia in order to express atonement from the Japanese people. As a result, the AWF decided to support a project proposed by the Government of Indonesia called the "Promotion of Social Welfare Services for Elderly People in Indonesia" through a fund disbursed by the Government of Japan. This decision was made partly because the Government of Indonesia found it difficult to identify former comfort women. In March 1997, the AWF concluded the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of Indonesia to provide financial support (380million yen over 10 years; final disbursement: 367 million yen) to the project. In this project, new facilities were built for the elderly who had no family or relatives to look after them and were unable to work due to illness or physical handicaps. These facilities were annexed to the public homes for elderly run by the Department of Social Affairs.
The priority entrance into these facilities was given to those who proclaim themselves as former comfort women. The facilities were established mainly in the regions where former comfort women were thought to live. In total, 69 social welfare facilities for elderly people were established. One of the facilities established in FY 2006 accommodated 14 former comfort women.
(3) The Netherlands
In order to convey atonement from the Japanese people, the Government of Japan and the AWF, in consultation with the Dutch people concerned, explored what appropriate project could be implemented in the Netherlands, where no authorities could identify former comfort women. As a result, on July 16, 1998, the AWF concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Project Implementation Committee in the Netherlands (PICN) on a project aimed at helping to enhance the living conditions of those who suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds during World War II.
In accordance with the MOU, the AWF, making use of a fund disbursed by the Government of Japan, decided to provide the PICN with financial support totaling up to 255 million yen (final disbursement: 245 million yen) over 3 years and the PICN implemented the project for 79 recipients. This project was successfully completed on July 14, 2001.
(4) Programs Underscoring the Lessons of History
Recognizing the importance of passing on the facts related to this issue to future generations as a lesson of history in order to ensure that such an issue may never be repeated, the AWF, in cooperation with the Government of Japan, actively compiled documents and materials relating to the comfort women issue.
2. Efforts to Address Contemporary Issues Concerning the Honor and Dignity of Women
The Government of Japan considers that it is its responsibility to address contemporary issues related to women, such as violence against women. The Government of Japan provided financial contributions to the AWF for its activities for such purposes.
In this context, the AWF actively implemented the following activities that would enhance understanding of contemporary women issues by the international community.
(1) Hosting international meetings on those issues
(2) Providing public relations support to other NGOs engaged in various contemporary issues on women through financial assistance
(3)Initiating research and fact-finding projects on contemporary women's human rights problems, such as violence against women; their causes, and necessary counter-measures and policies
(4) Launching projects to give counsel to those women who suffered from problems such as violence against women as well as to research and develop new counseling and mental care techniques to help improve the skills of counseling and health care professionals