In a major development, the Japanese and South Korean governments reached an agreement today concerning Korean comfort women kidnapped and routinely sexually assaulted by Japanese military personnel during World War II. Despite ample evidence demonstrating that the Japanese army deliberately kidnapped thousands of women from Korea and other parts of Asia and forced them into sexual slavery, Japan’s government has been notoriously resistant to confronting this chapter in their history.
In 1993, the Japanese government issued a formal apology to comfort women, but since that time the country has reefused to be held further accountable. There even remains in Japan a widespread revisionist movement that denies that the forcible sexual assault of thousands of women and young girls by Japanese troops even took plac; those revisionists deny the stories of the more than two hundred comfort women brutalized during World War II who have since come forward to describe their rape by Japanese troops. Those survivors have carried out an unrelenting campaign to demand justice from the Japanese government — a government that seems to have adopted a policy of waiting for comfort women survivors to die off so that the issue will just quietly go away.
The latest video posted this morning by ISIS militants shows members of the extremist organization threatening the lives of two Japanese hostages, Private Military Company CEO Haruna Yukawa (above) and freelance journalist Kenji Goto; both Japanese citizens were captured by the extremist group last year. The macabre setting of this morning’s video is heartbreakingly familiar: the orange jumpsuit-clad hostages knelt in front of a rocky dune next to the same hooded spokesman who has been featured in earlier beheading videos.
In this morning’s video, ISIS demands that the Japanese government pay the group $200 million dollars for Goto and Yukawa’s safe return. This was apparently in reference to the recent decision by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to commit $200 million in non-military aid to countries fighting ISIS; that decision was announced Saturday and was intended to support infrastructure projects. Abe also announced Saturday that his government is ready to commit an additional $2.5 billion humanitarian support. These monies are in addition to the country’s $2.2 billion dollar pledge two years ago to support humanitarian causes in the Middle East.