chapter  3
Historic injustice and the inheritance of rights and duties in East Asia
Pages 18

This chapter is concerned with the debate over reparations for past wrongdoing in East Asia: specifically, with the claim that present-day parties have inherited rectificatory duties and obligations stemming from wrongdoing perpetrated by the Japanese state in the years prior to and during World War II. This period in Japan’s history witnessed the culmination of a period of rising nationalism, militarism, colonialism, and, ultimately, fascism, and was marked by the invasion of Manchuria, the second SinoJapanese War, and military alliance with Nazi Germany and participation as an Axis power in World War II. It ended in defeat, occupation, and the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A number of contemporary claims for reparations have been advanced in relation to this period: both in connection with Japan’s general foreign policy in relation to countries such as China and Korea, and relating to more specific crimes against humanity, including the Nanking Massacre of 1937, the human experimentation carried out by Unit 731 of the Imperial Japanese Army, and the treatment of prisoners of war. The chapter focuses on one particular range of cases, involving the wartime treatment of women who were coerced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army – the victims of what is sometimes called the “comfort women” system. It puts forward a general model of the inheritability of rectificatory rights and obligations applicable to Japanese wartime wrongdoing, while also considering particular problematic features of the sexual slavery case. In focusing on the inheritance of compensatory claims and duties, we are concerned with the situation of individuals who were not the original victims or perpetrators of injustice. Can the existence of past injustice give rise to entitlements and obligations for present-day persons possibly not alive at the time of the original wrongdoing? If so, are the relevant conditions for this to be the case met in contemporary Japan? In what follows, I assess the claims that the Japanese people as a whole possess compensatory duties to victims of the sexual slavery system in the present day, and that the class of “victims” can be meaningfully expanded to include not only the immediate victims themselves, but also, following

their death, their relations, who can plausibly be said to have inherited rights to compensation. The argument is theoretical rather than historical. I make no precise

empirical claim concerning the number of women subjected to coercive sexual enslavement during World War II, but maintain that large numbers of women of diverse nationalities were so treated. Christine Wawrynek summarizes the experience of the women as follows:

Women from countries such as China, Taiwan, Borneo, the Philippines, Singapore, Burma, Indonesia, Guam, Malaysia, Japan, and Korea were forced to become sexual slaves for Japan’s Imperial Army during World War II. Approximately 200,000 women were forced or deceived into sexual slavery between 1931 and 1945. These women were imprisoned in military brothels or “comfort stations,” and were used to satiate the sexual cravings of the imperialistic Japanese army. They were repeatedly raped, tortured, beaten, mutilated, and were sometimes murdered at the hands of the men they were allegedly “comforting”. Jugun Ianfu, or “comfort women” were forced to have sex with multiple men, often “servicing” an average of thirty to forty men a day. They were treated as mere military supplies and were catalogued on supply lists under the heading of “ammunition”.