Asian-American leaders' reactions were measured after Japan and the Republic of Korea announced an agreement regarding the kidnapping and sexual enslavement of about 200,000 young women and girls, mostly from Korea, euphemistically referred to as "comfort women" during World War II.
The agreement included an apology from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and an $8.3 million aid fund for the remaining survivors, most of whom are now in their 80s and 90s. The South Korean government will try to resolve the issue of the "comfort women" statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, and it will refrain from accusing or criticizing the Japanese government about "comfort women."
"This is an historic apology for an historic wrong by Japan," Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), said in a statement. "By acknowledging both Japan's role and remorse, and by contributing to a fund for the survivors, Japan is setting an example for the world that such crimes cannot be forgotten, ignored, or repeated. "
Abe, whose last visit to the United States was marked by protests over this issue, has long been criticized for his revisionist and nationalist views of history, including his 2006 claim that there was no evidence of Japanese government coercion or involvement in the "comfort women" system, and his continuing efforts to rewrite history textbooks on the subject.
Calling the agreement "an historic milestone" and "a step in the right direction" towards restoring the dignity and honor of the women, Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) said in a statement that he was hopeful, but the agreement was "far from perfect."
"I am deeply disappointed this agreement lacks a commitment by Japan to ensure they will no longer whitewash history and [will] educate future generations," Honda said in a statement. "Only by educating our future generations, can we commit to upholding the human rights of all, and ensuring the wrongs of history will never repeat. I urge Prime Minister Abe and the Government of Japan to fully commit to this education — and ensure this atrocity never happens, ever again. I am also disappointed this apology is not a formal, and official apology issued by the Japanese Diet."
Calling violence against women during times of conflict and humanitarian crises crimes against humanity, Honda also said, "I have been honored to fight and be a voice for these women during the past 20 years. I have [shared] tears and meals with these survivors. While their pain and suffering are unimaginable, their courage and spirit are boundless. I hope with all my heart, these grandmothers will finally find peace."
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