Photo/IllutrationIsmat Jahan, a Bangladeshi who serves as an expert member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, speaks to reporters on March 7 to explain the report on Japan. (Takashi Kida)

GENEVA--A key U.N. panel has concluded that the much-touted agreement between Japan and South Korea on the "comfort women" issue does not go nearly far enough.

The accord, reached in December, was intended to resolve the issue that had been a major headache in bilateral relations once and for all.

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) issued a report March 7 on its conclusions about what Japan has done to tackle discrimination against women.

The CEDAW is one of the 10 human rights treaty bodies that monitor the implementation of the core international human rights treaties.

It called on Tokyo to consider the perspective of the comfort women in implementing measures to support them.

Comfort women refer to those who were forced to provide sex to the Japanese military before and during World War II.

One page or so of the 14-page report dealt exclusively with the comfort women issue and in much greater detail than in its previous report, issued in 2009.

The latest report called on Japan to "recognize the right of victims to a remedy, and accordingly provide full and effective redress and reparation."

The observations also touched upon recent comments about responsibility for the comfort women issue made by political leaders and other officials, as well as the agreement reached in December which the two nations described as a "final and irreversible resolution" of the issue.

However, the report said the agreement "did not fully adopt a victim-centered approach." It went on to call on Tokyo to take sufficient consideration of the views of the victims in implementing the agreement.

In a March 7 news conference held to explain the findings of the report, Ismat Jahan, an expert member of the CEDAW from Bangladesh, spoke on behalf of the committee and said that the concluding observations meant the committee did not consider the comfort women issue to be resolved.

She added that the views of the former comfort women should be taken into greater consideration in moving toward a final resolution of the issue.

While taking note of the efforts made by Tokyo to reach the December agreement, the report asked Japan to "ensure that its leaders and public officials desist from making disparaging statements regarding responsibility, which have the effect of retraumatizing victims."


Government officials were quick to take issue with the U.N. committee's report.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said at a March 8 news conference, "That's a real shame as it (the panel's reaction) diverges greatly from the reception of the international community."

At his own news conference the same day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government had filed a protest against the U.N. panel report.

"The conclusions in the report did not adequately reflect the comments made by Japan," Suga said. "The Japanese delegation in Geneva issued a strong statement expressing extreme regret."

Kishida emphasized that the international response was favorable to the December agreement reached with South Korea.

"Not only did the leaders of the two governments confirm it, but it was also welcomed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as well as many nations, such as the United States and Britain."

In its report, the U.N. panel called on Japan to take "due account of the views of the victims and survivors" and "ensure their rights to truth, justice and reparations."

(This article was written by Ichiro Matsuo and Takashi Kida.)