"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Statement by President Tomiichi Murayama on the Occasion of the End of Atonement Project of the AWF

[Date] October 2002
[Source] Digital Museum: Comfort Women Issue and Asian Women's Fund
[Full text]

A message to all who kindly donated to the Asian Women's Fund atonement projects

Seven years have passed since the establishment of the Asian WomenÅfs Fund, and the AWF's atonement projects were recently completed in the Philippines, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan. Here, I would like to express our deep gratitude to all who donated atonement money for those forced to become comfort women.

The term "comfort women" refers to those who were forced to provide sexual services to officers and men at comfort stations established with the involvement of the former Japanese military during the last World War. Many women at those comfort stations had their honor and dignity gravely trampled upon, and suffered incurable physical and psychological trauma.

On August 4, 1993, the Chief Cabinet Secretary expressed the Japanese Government's sincere feelings of apology and remorse. After his Statement, the government and people of Japan searched for ways to offer atonement.

Painfully aware of its moral responsibility, the government decided to establish the Asian Women's Fund, which would implement projects of atonement of the Japanese people, in cooperation with the government and citizens of Japan. The AWF was established on July 19, 1995.

After the government took this initiative, the Asian Women's Fund decided that the projects of atonement of the Japanese people would involve: (i) atonement money financed by donations from the Japanese people; (ii) medical and welfare support projects financed by disbursements from the Japanese government; and (iii) a letter of apology from the Prime Minister of Japan, sent to each former comfort woman with these benefits. The Asian Women's Fund then launched a campaign calling on the Japanese people to donate money.

The projects of atonement of the Japanese people began on August 13, 1996 in the Philippines, on January 1, 1997 in the Republic of Korea, and on May 2, 1997 in Taiwan. Because of a strong desire to implement the projects as soon as possible for the women, who were advanced in age, it was decided that the project duration would be five years. The deadline for receipt of applications was August 2001 in the Philippines, and May 2002 in the Republic of Korea and Taiwan. The projects of atonement were recently concluded in those countries and region.

Project of atonement benefits were provided to 285 recipients in those countries and region. Many recipients sent us favorable comments, such as, "I never thought I would receive apologies from the Prime Minister and money. I know they represent the feelings of good will of the Japanese people."

Since the establishment of the Asian Women's Fund, the total amount of money donated by Japanese citizens has reached more than 565 million yen. All of this money was provided to former comfort women of the Philippines, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan.

We are deeply grateful to all Japanese donors. I am pleased to note that cooperation among the citizens and government of Japan made it possible for the projects of atonement of the Japanese people to be implemented in the above-mentioned countries and region, and for the Asian Women's Fund to undertake the projects.

Some former comfort women and support groups in those countries and region criticized the Asian Women's Fund atonement projects, saying that the Japanese government should acknowledge legal responsibility and pay compensation to individuals from the State treasury. The Asian Women's Fund tried, in all sincerity, to enter into a dialogue with them in order to obtain their understanding.

In the Netherlands, medical and welfare support programs financed by Japanese government disbursements were implemented from 1998 to 2001 through the Project Implementation Committee in the Netherlands, with program benefits being provided to 79 former comfort women of that country. They were each also given, together with the benefits, a copy of the letter of apology sent by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto of Japan to Prime Minister Willem Kok of the Netherlands.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Indonesia, it was decided that the Asian WomenÅfs Fund would support social welfare projects implemented by that government for elderly people in Indonesia. The projects are planned to last 10 years, starting in March 1997, and are now being implemented.

In addition to the projects of atonement, the Asian Women's Fund has also promoted projects aimed at resolving problems faced by women today. The projects spring from a strong sense of remorse for the Japan of the past that created that detestable system, the comfort women system.

The AWF has also promoted a greater awareness of the comfort women issue, so that it will serve as a lesson of history. The AWF's collection, survey and analysis of relevant historical documents, and the public awareness campaigns based on the knowledge gained through those efforts, have crystallized in a determination that the Japanese people must never forget the issue or repeat the same mistakes.

We believe in the importance of the AWF's projects described above, and intend to continue our efforts in the future.

We sincerely hope that we can continue to count on the sympathetic understanding and support of all Japanese citizens.

Tomiichi Murayama, President of the Asian Women's Fund