Building Peace in Northeast Asia with Regard to Japan’s Position and Women’s Role


By Shimizu Sumiko

Former Member of the Upper House

Standing Advisor for Women’s Council

Representative of the Japanese Women’s Liaison Society for Solidarity with the Korean Women,

Vice Representative of Peace Forum

Co-representative of the Liaison Society for Normalization of the Diplomatic Relations Between North Korea and Japan




The six-party talks that have been held with an object ofdenuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and constructing a permanent peace and stability in Northeast Asia, are now about to take the first step toward the end of Cold War and the termination of the era of division on the Korean Peninsula, despite many complications. In the time ofsuch a seismic change, how the women of the six countries, in addition to the government-level collaborations, can contribute to the peace building effort in Northeast Asia, and give the collaborative movement further momentum? I would like express my sincere gratitude to Chairperson Jung Hyun-Bak from Korea, and other members of committee for inviting me to this wonderful opportunity to discuss how to cooperate in creating a new peace.


Japan is one of the members of the 6-party talks, but in retrospect in the history, it is responsible to the colonial rule over North and South Koreas. The nation is also held accountable for the aggressive war with China, and it fought the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the 2nd World War; thus, the position of Japan is different from that of the other five member nations. However, Japan concluded the peace treaty with the U.S. and other allied powers(but not with the Soviet Union) in 1951, signed Korea-Japan Basic Relations Treaty in 1965, and resumed diplomatic ties with China in 1972 and terminated the war. But with the D.P.R.K., Japan still has not compensate its colonial rule and has not established diplomatic relations?a unique and abnormal situation for both countries.


Therefore, the peace issue and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula necessitate the normalization of North Korea-Japan relations, and it too is a desperate task for us Japanese people. There is no need to say that the U.S. strategy during the U.S.-Soviet Cold War had a tremendous influence on the N.K.-Japan relations. In this regard, the issue of Korean Peninsula may as well be the issue of the entire Northeast Asia, and at the same time, the issue of the whole world. As one of the Japanese citizens, and in the perspective of women’s movement, I report the issues of overcoming the N.K.-Japan relations, wishing for an everlasting peace and development in Northeast Asia.


1. Historical Relationship Between Japan and the Korean Peninsula


1) Japan’s Colonial Rule

Since the dawn of history, Japan has obtained various cultural benefits from the Korean Peninsula. Nonetheless, Japan repeatedly invaded and occupied Korea, and in 1910, it annexed then-Korean Empire and ruled for the next 36 years as a colony.During those years, the colonial policy deprived the Korean people of their land, the Korean alphabet, language, and names, and annihilated the nation’s religions, cultures and other unique characters, forcibly demanding allegiance to the cause of Japanese imperialism and militarism. At home, the Japanese leaders encouraged their people to despise Koreans, and implemented discriminating policy, inciting the people’s sense of superiority to Koreans, and splitting up human feelings and relationships. Consequently, anti-Japanese independence movement in Korean was suppressed, and in 1923, when the Great Kanto Earthquake hit, with the spreading of police-fabricated rumor that Koreans had started riots, over 7,000 Koreans were massacred under the martial law. But they have neither apologized nor reflected on their wrongdoings; to date, the crime remains unquestioned. Furthermore, to carry out its aggressive war, Japan mobilized a great number of Koreans by the mandatory state order as a measure to secure domestic labor force in the nation, brutally demanding slave labor at coal mines, dams, railroad construction sites, many people died in the process. Yet, the remains of the victims have not investigated or returned. Even for those who had conscripted to the Japanese military and never made home again, their deaths have been unidentified and their remains have not completely returned to Korea. In addition, under the imperialism patriarchal system, the Korean people’s dignity as well as human dignity have been devastatingly robbed--the victims are none other than so-called "Japanese comfort women."


2) The Division of North and South Korea, and Unregretful Japan


(1) Regrettably, since Japan was defeated in its aggressive war in 1945 and ended the colonial ruling, it has not apologized and compensated the Korean people for its wrongdoings. Moreover, after the Japanese colonial rule, the Korean Peninsula divided into North and South Koreas along the borderline of the 38th parallel, and Republic of Korea in the South and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the North were born in 1948. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, despite its constitutional provisions that Japan shall not engage in any war, the country participated in the military action as a supply base for the U.S. military as per the U.S. policy. Since then, Japan has been hostile to North Korea and their relations have been on strain up until today. On the other hand, Japan collaborated with Korea’s government of Park Chung-Hee military dictatorship in suppressing the Korean people’s struggle for democracy. The conclusion of the Korea-Japan Basic Treaty discriminately divided Korean residents in Japan into two groups: pro-South Korea Koreans and pro-North Korean "Chosun" people. In 1973, former Korean President Kim Dae-Jung (then opposition leader) was kidnapped by South Korean special agents in the Japanese territory, but the Japanese government has not sought ways to restore its sovereignty and Kim’s human rights?the fact is still in the dark shadow of the political settlement.     


(2) In addition, with the Korean War, Japan’s conservative force revised the nation’s constitution for the worse, aiming at returning to a military state?a desire that opposes most of the Japanese citizens’ opinion. In the past, their pretext for the rearmament and constitutional revision for the worse was the theory of the threats from the Soviet Union and China. Now, it turns to the threats from North Korea and China.This is how the relations have developed between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, and still colonialism has been deeply rooted in the Japanese society. Japanese politicians’ praising comments on their colonial policy continues, thorny issues such as "comfort women" and the Nanjing Massacre have been removed from Japan’s history textbooks, and claimed sovereignty over Takeshima (in Korean, Dokto Islets), denying and distorting historical facts. More recently, on June 28, 2008, a district superintendent of education in Shimonoseki argued that there had not been any colonial rule, inviting outraged citizens’ harsh criticism.However, such an improper historical recognition in the Japanese society has not been limited to the officials in the administration and politicians in the Diet; even in some civil activities and peace movements, there still lingers such historical perspectives, and Japan’s attitude toward colonialism has yet to overcome. In short, national discrimination against Koreans and Chosun people residing in Japan has deep-rooted problems,and their civil rights have a long way to go.


2.Overcoming Colonialism


1) It was 1973 when we established the Japanese Women’s Liaison Society for Solidarity with the Korean Women (encompassing the two Koreas). The motive of the creation was based on the recognition that the Japanese peace movement lacked self-reflection over its colonial rule, and was so devoid of interest and consciousness about the Korean Peninsula issue. Upon organizing the Society, the Kim Dae-Jung kidnapping incident broke out coincidently; its ensuing activity had been focused on "not to kill Kim," and movement to save him and to restore his rights were followed for the next 30 years. In the meantime, the Society has supported struggles demanding to release political prisoners and for laborers’ rights; it also repeatedly rallies to protest sex tour practices. Furthermore, by exchanging activities with the North Korean women, and organizing an international women’s conference to support an independent, peaceful unification on the Korean Peninsula, the Women’s Liaison Society has helped various overseas women’s organizations understand the current situation of the Peninsula, demanding the Japanese government to provide positive policies to end the division of the Peninsula.


2) One such dramatic achievements, among many others, was made at a "Symposium for Peace and Women’s Role in Asia" held in 1991 by the Liaison Society, when a group of three participating South Koreans, Lee Woo-Jeong, Lee Hyo-Jae, and Yun Jeong-Ok, reunited in Japan with North Korean, Yeo Yeon-Gu, after 43 years of separation. The symposiumset forth three common tasks for the women of the three nations: (1) demanding the Japanese government to apologize and compensate the "comfort women"issue, (2) working together to help normalize the N.K.-Japan relations and the unification of the two Koreas, (3) finding mutual confirmation for establishment of human rights for all Korean residents in Japan, regardless of their original nations. In the autumn of the same year, the symposium was held in Seoul, and the following year, it was hosted in Pyongyang. For the first time since the division, women from the two Koreas crossed the demilitarized zone. The women’s power and their actions that made the National Intelligence Agency of Korea and the two governments on the Korean Peninsula were the first step toward a united Korea and peace in Northeast Asia.


3) These collaborations have development later into a concerted effort to solve the "Japan’s military sex slaves" issue, and such a powerful solidarity has expanded into a movement, prompting the victims in the Asian region to consolidate, and protested against the Japanese government, demanding its apology. The effort resulted in the U.N. declaration on the abolishment of sexual violence. It probably was one of the greatest achievements of the Asian feminism movement at the end of the 20th century. The "Japan’s military sex slaves" issue, however, has yet to be truthfully solved. In particular, compensation for the victims in North Korea has never been made. By rallying and assembling across the country, we are demanding the Japanese government to bring the immediate normalization of relations between North Korea and Japan. We are also demanding the government to pay off its history and make compensations, ahead of establishing diplomatic relations with N.K., for those individual victims of nuclear bombs and military sex slavery, and return of the remains of the forcibly drafted victims. These people are very old, and any further delay in making compensate for them is tantamount to purposely violate their human rights, and to commit the past crime over again. We are concerned that, unless the normalization of NK-Japan relations, the Japanese people’s awareness of history will diminish every day; they may become insensitive to the violation of human rights, and other people’s agony. Failing to do so will eventually cast a dark shadow over the Asian people’s effort to build a new partnership and establish peace in Northeast Asia, inviting unwanted result of accelerating the destruction of Japan’s constitutional ideology that champions to secure the world citizens’ right to live peacefully.


3. Necessity of the Normalization of Relations Between N.K. and Japan


1) For us Japanese people, the tasks of the normalization of the N.K.-Japan relations are: (1) (1) to pay of the 36-year colonial rule, and (2) to turn hostile relations into amicable, and peaceful ones by normalizing the ties between the two neighbors. Realizing these two tasks will great contribute to the reconciliation and unification of North and South Korea; above all, it will pave the way to the increased people’s awareness on human rights and democracy in the Japanese society, and will serve as a stepping stone toward a global community in which people coexist peacefully with other nations.


2) Effort for Normalization and the U.S. Intervention


North Korea’s proposal in 1955 initiated actions for the normalization of relations with Japan, and several negotiations were made throughout the 1990s. The Japanese government, however, had been backed then-military government in South Korea, and it was impossible for Tokyo to establish diplomatic links with Pyongyangdue to the U.S.-Japan security base theory. But in 1972, when the mutual statement of the two Koreas was announced, human exchanges between North Korea and Japan became more active, and some developments were made in the progress of the normalization. To this, South Korea indicated repulsive response as it did not want Tokyo to get ahead of Seoul in improving relations with Pyongyang. In the 1980s, South Korea’s democracy was achieved, perestroika was initiated in the Soviet Union, and then, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the negotiation talks for the normalization resumed in 1990. However, Washington’s strong urge to raise an issue of N.K.’s nuclear ambition disrupted the talks, and no further developments were made.


4.N.K.-Japan Pyongyang Declaration and ‘Kidnapping’ Issue ? Taking Advantage of It in Revising the Constitution for the Worse   


1) Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Koizumi visited North Korea in September, 2002, signed the N.K.-Japan Pyongyang Declaration with Kim Jong-Il, chairman of the National Defense Commission, committing to the realization of the normalization. The Japanese Prime Minister expressed reflections on the damages and pains that Japan’s colonial rule had caused, and apologized for the wrongdoings, and the North Korean leader admitted and apologized for kidnapping Japanese citizens. Japan promised to offer economic cooperation afterthe planned normalization, and North Korea responded the offer by giving its word to comply with the existing international regulations for the nuclear issue. An epoch-making advance was made.


2) But Japan’s domestic news media and national sentiment fiercely repulsed the conclusion because of the kidnapping issue. Hardliners in the Diet and the administration cut off food aid and other humanitarian support to North Korea, and urged to press Pyongyang, aiming at collapsing the regime; hence the Japanese society returned to anti-North Korea drive. After the Clinton administration, the newly inaugurated Bush administration defined North Korea as one of the evil axis, and announced one-sidedly that it would not hesitate to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the hermit kingdom. As a result, military tensions were running high on the Korean Peninsula, and, in 2006, North Korea conducted missile launching test and nuclear tests.


3) Japan’s Abe administration immediately reacted by placing economic sanctions: it prohibited North Korean vessels to enter the Japanese seaports, placed an embargo on import from North Korea, banned the North Korean officials to be admitted into Japan. Then, the government harshly gave a political suppression on the Korean organizations and groups of people living in Japan, and people with N.K. origins. The Abe administration only focused on the "kidnapping" issue in the negotiation with Pyongyang, and as the human and material exchanges ceased, N.K.-Japan relations had become deteriorated for the worst since the World War II. Along with such N.K. policies, a bill that would amend Article 9 of the Constitution was introduced in the Diet; consequently, military expansion and rearrangement of U.S. military bases had been driven with more momentum. Concurrently, Gender Bashing was implemented.


5.‘Overcoming Inter-Korean Relations’ and ‘Overcoming NK-Japan Relations,’ with Expectation for the 6-Party Talks


1) Meaning of North-South Joint Declaration and NK-Japan Pyongyang Declaration


(1) However, the historical meaning of the N.K.-Japan Pyongyang Declaration has never been damaged. Furthermore, for the first time in the history of Northeast Asia since the World War II, the Pyongyang Declaration has an epoch-making significance; it cleared showed that normalization process between the two neighbors would eventually be settled through a comprehensive negotiation body which seeks to build confidence for multilateral collaborative relations in order to maintain and reinforce peace and stability in the region.  


(2) Behind these achievements were former South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung’s "sunshine policy," which was a positive reconciliation policy, and North-South Summit Talks held in June, 2000. Since the "North-South Joint Declaration on June 15th" inter-Korean relations had made a remarkable advancement in the areas including separated family reunion, and economic, political, cultural, societal, and transportation areas; now, the current is viewed negatively as depicted in the "lost 10 years,"?does this mean that they do not understand the most fundamental meaning of the Joint Declaration? It is an agreement that concerned nations and the two Koreas jointly work together toward ending the Korean War and building peace regime. Hence, ‘overcoming inter-Korean relations’ and ‘overcoming NK-Japan relations’ are closely interrelated.


2) Policy Change in NK-US Relations?from Military Sanction to Peaceful Means


(1) The strategy of American neocons, who defined North Korea as a 2nd Iraq, has ended up in smoke, and U.S. President Bush has turned about in his North Korea policy and changed it in the framework of the Six-Party Talks: from confrontation to dialog, and from sanction to diplomacy. Then, he considered the conclusion of the Korean War and normalization of N.K.-U.S. relation as ultimate negotiation conditions, and chose a step-by-step, peaceful and non-military way to solve the ‘denuclearization’ of North Korea.

North Korea produced a statement for its nuclear development plan based on the agreement of the 5th Six-Party Talks held on February 13, 2007, and on another agreement dated October 3rd the same year. Acknowledging this, the U.S. government rescindedNorth Korean's designation as a state sponsor of terror, and terminated the application of the Trading with Enemy Act?which had been applied for the past 58 years since the Korean War. On June 27 this year, North Korea destroyedthe cooling tower of the nuclear facility in Yongbyon. Things are changing rapidly. Currently, all the nations are expecting the advancement in the process of the Six-Party Talks, hoping that Japan should get N.K.-Japan negotiations back on track, not to attach the kidnapping issue.


(2) At the moment, the Six-Party Talks are about to face the most critical and challenging tasks of verifying and renouncing nuclear programs. We are committed to work with nation-wide movement, demanding the Japanese government that now is the time to braze a trail toward establishing diplomatic ties with North Korea in earnest, and to devote to the progress of the Six-Party Talks. The Japanese government, first of all, should raise sanction, and through negotiation, resume talks discussing and proposing detail processes to solve the ‘kidnapping’ issue and to restore diplomatic links. At the same time, Japan should implement the energy aid and humanitarian aid program for North Korea as agreed at the Six-Party Talks, and hold liable to joint responsibility with other five nations. Now, theissue of normalization of N.K.-Japan relations is no longer an issue of the two parties, but it has entered a critical phase of building a new security-guaranteed area in Northeast Asia, shedding the structure formed during the last Cold War, as the normalization effort has been deeply interconnected with multiple layers of development of multilateral relations including North-South dialogue, N.K.-U.S. negotiations, and peaceful intervention of China and Russia.


6.Toward Women’s Network to Build Peace in NE Asia  


(1) As discussed, the key to a peaceful and stable Northeast Asia depends on realization of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. In short, it is denuclearization of the Peninsula, and aimed at unification of the two Koreas. By the same token, it is a historical, and pivotal event that the four powers of Japan, the U.S., China, and Russia, that have been intervening militarily or peacefully in the issue of the Korean Peninsula at the Six-Party Talks, sit down together with the two concerned parties to tackle the current situations and prepare for the future. Therefore, it would be a top priority for women to have updated information with regard to the situation and pay close attention to the developments such as the process of Six-Party Talks, important agreements, and each party’s commitment.


(2) In this regard, what are the preferable women’s perspectives with which they find their position to build peace with regard to the structural view that the areas of international politics and security issue have been considered as men’s territory? I would like to discuss a few immediate tasks   In the process of peace creation in the 21st century, it is required to value much of people’s participation and general citizens’ view, and to set the goal at abolition of sexual discrimination, overcoming nationalistic and male-dominated ideology. The driving force to build peace in such a way comes from citizens and women, and collaborative movement beyond national borders is needed. In this sense,in order to create peace in Northeast Asia, it is required to secure not just international discussions but also positive participation of citizens and women who live in the region.


(3) As the first step, on this occasion, we have gathered at Seoul, exchanging information, sharing ideas about common goals, considering the joint declaration. I would like to propose to build a ‘women’s network’ toward a stable Korean Peninsula and peaceful Northeast Asia. Also, I want to organize a new peace movement based on sympathy and collaboration as women; at the same time, a movement that helps to forge a sympathy and collaboration as a human being, and an ability to see through the reality of peace?as peace is not an abstract concept.


(4) In addition to this, above all, how about to begin with what is possible right now, from the place every one of us lives, in order to dissolve confrontation in Northeast Asia and military tensions, and create a non-nuclear peace zone in the region? For instance, under the U.S. military’s security umbrella, like in Japan or Korea, crimes and sexual violations committed against local women and girls by American soldiers from the military bases are continuing, making base removal top priority for the safety and peace of residents. Furthermore, in the middle of the repeated incidents of such crimes, women are becoming to realize the interrelation of militarizationand sexual role that goes globalization, and take part in the movement that recognize the fundamental nature and structure of militarized sexual violence. Women’s movement based on the sexual roleperspective has raised a question concerning the orientation of the existing anti-war peace movement, inviting change in the existing movement that stuck to anti-state, anti-military ideology. Moreover, what realized recently is that Japan’s conservatives and hardliners are taking advantage of the division and confrontation on the Korean Peninsula, and making it as a good pretext to Japan’s militarization and to revise its Constitution that provides Japan as a non-military state thus transform into a military nation. In connection with such trends, the political leaders are raising an issue of women’s sexual role, making it more difficult to revise legal institution of women’s rights. Therefore, we are reinforcing the criticism that militarization is a structure which requires sexual role, recognizing that solving the North Korea issue has something to do with anti-militarization and with denial of sexual role. Also, we are requesting safety guarantee for a human being, shedding the military-led safety guarantee.  


(5) Finally, Japan is a world-first nuclear bomb victim, and its people want to abolish nuclear weapons. That is why they have anxiously expected in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. To this end, we are working and demanding to legalize the 3 denuclearization principles. Also, article 9 of Japan’s Constitution proclaimed that "permanently denouncing war that begun by the act of national sovereignty, threatening by military force, and the use of force as a means of solving international dispute,’and clearly stipulates that it ‘shall not maintain the army, navy, air force and other military force to achieve this goal, and shall not admit the rights to engage in any war action.’ Currently, Japan’s peace forces are expanding various civil movements including ‘meeting of article 9,’ claiming that the constitutional article9 should not be revised for the worse. The Constitution is a superb wisdom of human race as a result of learning from the past experiences, describing that every citizen in everynation has rights to live in peace. We have been working fro a movement to make this Constitution a common Constitution of the world, and as I close my report, I vow to work with you to maintain and expand the ideology of this Peace Constitution in building a peace system in Northeast Asia.


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