Students at Harvard staged a silent protest of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Monday, reports the Harvard Crimson.
While not talking about the protestors directly, Abe did not ignore their concern about the sexual slavery of comfort women by the Imperial Army during World War II.
“When it comes to the comfort women issue, my heart aches when I think about those people who were victimized by human trafficking and were subject to immeasurable pain and suffering,” said Abe during a speech on campus. “In the 20th century, we have seen history where once conflict arises, women’s human rights and honor are deeply wounded—we had such a history.”
Abe said he has backed the 1993 Kono statement expressing remorse for the military’s involvement in sexual slavery. However, Kono has also said previously he does not think women were forced to work in the brothels. Critics have called for him to formally apologize to comfort women.
In an open letter from 18 Harvard student groups, the students demanded an admission of the “Japanese government’s direct involvement in the operation of comfort stations.”
““It seems like [Abe’s] words don’t match his actions—he says he upholds the Kono statement, yet he promotes a revisionist history,” said Claudine S. Cho, one of the protestors.
More protests are expected to follow Abe during his US trip. The Korean American Forum of California says its members will wear masks in a silent protest outside the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles when Abe makes an appearance there on May 1, reports the Korea Times.