LEXIE TUCKER WRITES – The past continues to haunt Japan for its treatment of Chinese “comfort women” before and during World War II. On April 25, the archives in China’s Jilin province released 89 documents that include letters written by Japanese soldiers, newspaper articles, and military files that provide solid evidence of Chinese women being forced into servitude in frontline brothels.
According to Chinese state media, the documents were originally discovered in the early 1950s. It is not entirely clear as to why they have waited so long to bring them to the public’s attention. Many speculate that the Chinese want to be taken seriously, while some claim that the women were not actually coerced by government authorities or the military, but rather took the positions of their own free will.
Another valid assumption is that this is China’s answer to the wishes of Japanese nationalist politicians who have been insisting that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dilute a 1993 apology to the women who were affected. They have also asserted that there is no evidence of large-scale coercion. Abe did not go through with the request and stated that Tokyo will not revise the apology.
The rest of the Jilin documents detail the Nanking massacre in which Japanese soldiers killed approximately 300,000 people during their two year occupation of Nanking (now called Nanjing). Media outlets of both countries dispute the actual number of people killed in the massacre, and some nationalist Japanese politicians have even claimed that reports about the massacre were exaggerated for propaganda purposes.
Japan continues to refuse to directly reimburse the women who were affected, stating that the issue was settled by “a 1965 bilateral treaty that normalized diplomatic ties.” They did eventually create a privately run fund in 1995, which was fueled solely by donations. The fund was cancelled in 2007 due to many women’s refusals to accept compensation unless it came directly from the Japanese state.
Instead of continuing the debate, the release of these documents may give the Japanese the push they need to settle things in a more honorable manner.