(Asahi: March 31, 2015 – p. 3)
By Hajime Takeda; Akihiko Kaise in Seoul
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe explained the remarks he made on the comfort women issue during an interview with a U.S. newspaper at the House of Representatives Budget Committee on March 30. He said: “It is a fact that this issue has been discussed as a question of human trafficking, so I used the term human trafficking in that sense.”
The interview with Abe was carried in the March 27 issue of The Washington Post. According to the transcript published in the paper’s online version, in response to the interviewer’s observation that he is sometimes called a historical “revisionist,” Abe touched on the comfort women issue and said: “When my thought goes to these people, who have been victimized by human trafficking and gone through immeasurable pain and suffering beyond description, my heart aches.”
Abe pointed out that the comfort women issue violated women’s human rights. He also stated: “My hope is that the 21st century will be the first century when there will be no violation of human rights.”
The Washington Post report was in English, so it is unclear what expressions the Prime Minister used in Japanese.
In connection with this, the Democratic Party of Japan’s Yuichi Goto asked at the Lower House Budget Committee: “What Japanese word did you use for human trafficking?” Abe answered “jinshin baibai.” When asked if the comfort women issue involved human trafficking, Abe did not answer.
When the term human trafficking is used in the Western countries in the context of the comfort women issue, the tendency is to assert that there was “serious violation of human rights.” However, during the Diet interpellation Abe did not clarify what he really meant by using this term.
Meanwhile, Abe’s remarks were criticized by the ROK.
The ROK foreign ministry issued a statement on March 28 saying: “If this was an attempt to put the blame on private operators and deny the Japanese government’s involvement and responsibility, it constituted an effort to misrepresent the nature of the issue. This is absolutely unacceptable to the victims, the ROK government, and the international community.”