TOKYO (AP) — Five former victims of Japan's wartime sex slavery and their supporters submitted hundreds of official documents to the government Monday, demanding Prime Minister Shinzo Abe face Japan's past atrocity and formally apologize.
Several support groups backing the women, who are from Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea, said the documents collected from around the world include clear evidence of coercion.
Japan apologized in 1993 over the "comfort women" system of forced prostitution before and during World War II, but it insists there is no proof the women were systematically coerced by the government, citing the lack of official Japanese documents stating so.
The Cabinet in an Abe-led government in 2007 underscored the lack of proof. Abe recently promised Japan won't change its 1993 apology, but it is re-examining the study that was the basis of the apology. Neighboring countries have criticized Japan over its review, particularly a re-examination of interviews with former Korean victims as an attempt to discredit the women.
"That's a lie. We have evidence. I'm a living proof," said Estelita Dy, an 84-year-old victim from the Philippines who was kidnapped by Japanese soldiers in 1943 when she was 12. "I feel outraged every time I hear people say we were not forced into this. That's why I have to keep telling my story."
She said she was happy to see the new documents and the group's demand for Abe being submitted to the government.
The civil groups criticized the government for looking the other way since the 1993 apology and now trying to discredit the content of studies under previous governments more willing to atone for Japan's wartime actions. The victims and their supporters demanded Abe officially acknowledge Japan's wartime government and military established and ran the "comfort women" brothel system, and that the women were forced into the system against their will. They also demanded the Abe government disclose all official records related to the issue, conduct additional investigation and promote education, while punishing lawmakers and other public figures' remarks denying the atrocity.
Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a Chuo University historian and a well-respected expert in the topic, said the 529 pieces of documents he and his fellow historians have compiled since 1993 contain proof the Japanese military and the government were directly involved in setting up and recruiting the girls and women from around Asia to use as "comfort women," often by deception and kidnapping.
Nearly 190 of the documents came from Japan's Defense Ministry archives, more than 40 from foreign militaries and governments, 60 from Taiwan, he said. Court documents from Japan, as well as investigation results by the government of Netherlands, a former colonizer of Indonesia, are also included.
He said the women were clearly forcibly taken away and placed under slave-like conditions at the comfort stations.