Projects to learn from history also form a fundamental part of the Fund's activities. A Committee on Historical Materials on Comfort Women was established within the Fund to promote the collection and publication of materials relating to the comfort women issue. This committee first published A Bibliography of Publications on the Comfort Women Issue (Gyosei, 1997). Further more it compiled the materials relating to the comfort women issue, discovered by the Japanese government and published 5 volumes of the Collection of Materials Relating to the Wartime Comfort Women (Ryukei Shosha, 1998).
The Asian Women's Fund began with projects in the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, and Taiwan. During its first two years of operation, the Fund received donations totaling 400 million yen, but the amount grew more slowly thereafter. In August 2000, the 6th year of operation, the total amount of donations had reached 448 million yen. The Fund therefore decided on a bold measure, launching its "Campaign 2000" in September 2000 as a way to call for more donations. Since then an additional amount of more than 116 million yen has been donated, making a total of 565 million yen as of October 2002.
What is noteworthy in the process of implementation of the project is that the Philippines government recognized those women who were taken to garrison buildings, confined there for a certain period and raped continuously as comfort women. And in Taiwan the AWF received a request from the local support group that to accept from the AWF does not lead to the loss of legal right to appeal to the court for state compensation. The AWF negotiated with the Japanese government and obtained a written statement of the government with such meaning. (Full Text)
The projects began in August 1996 in the Philippines, in January 1997 in the Republic of Korea, and in May 1997 in Taiwan. Each project had the time span of five years, and all were concluded by September 2002. A total of 285 victims received atonement money in those countries and region. Thus, 5 million yen more was disbursed than the amount donated by the Japanese people. To make up the difference, the Fund disposed of some endowments that had been established through donations from the private sector, making it possible for a total of 570 million yen to be provided as atonement money to the victims.
Atonement projects were also implemented in the Netherlands, beginning in July 1998. In that country, the Fund's projects took on a different character, offering only medical and welfare support and the Prime Minister's letter. The projects were implemented for 79 people there, and were concluded in July 2001.
It is known that there were comfort women in the other countries such as in China, North Korea, Malayesia, and East Timor, but the projects of the AWF could not have been implemented toward the victims of these countries for several reasons.
In Indonesia, the Fund is supporting the development of welfare facilities for the elderly, including former comfort women, using financial resources from the Japanese Government. The Indonesian Government requested that the projects be implemented in this way, rather than through measures benefiting individual former comfort women directly.
|In Memory of the Late Bunbei Hara, First President of the Asian Women's Fund (died September 1999)
"A man of few words, but always ready to set the course of policy when required."
Speech given by Ms. Makiko Arima, Director of the Asian Women's Fund (formerly its Vice-President), at a ceremony in memory of Mr. Hara on December 12, 1999
The Asian Women's Fund was established on July 19, 1995, the year of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II and a time of vigorous debate on questions of responsibility with regard to the war and the post-war period.
During the previous year, the government coalition of three political parties had initiated the "Project to Deal with Issues Fifty Years After the War," and this stimulated diverse discussions on what should be done to mark the 50th anniversary. The most significant vision arising from the Project was a proposal to establish an "Asian Women's Fund" to express apology and remorse to the former so-called wartime comfort women.
The proposal's announcement was met by a wide divergence in public opinion, and it became apparent that the Fund would have to be launched amid considerable controversy. It was against this backdrop that Bunbei Hara, who was at the time President of the House of Councilors, agreed to become the Fund's President. When I heard this news I was deeply moved and encouraged. I went with colleagues to his chambers at the House of Councilors to thank him, and he said simply, with the warmth that always showed on his face, that it was we who were working hard and should be thanked.
At the first meeting of the Fund's Board of Directors on August 1, 1995, our new President stressed that it was important for all Japanese to readily acknowledge the pain of the former comfort women and try our hardest to alleviate, at least to the degree possible, their suffering, at a time when they were already of advanced age. He also strongly indicated the direction the Fund must take — to base its actions on remorse for the past while resolutely promoting activities countering affronts to the honor and dignity of women today.
Surely the deepest impression Mr. Hara left on most individuals involved in the Fund, from the moment he became its President, was the strength of character he showed while attending the frequent meetings of the Fund's Board of Directors and round-table discussions attended by three groups, the Fund's proponents, its directors, and officers of its Advisory Committee. He remained very much alert no matter how late at night the meetings continued, and stayed also for the press conferences afterward. He would attend right to the end, even when, as often happened, proceedings continued until one or even two o'clock in the morning.
Sometimes people attending meetings of the Fund's Board of Directors and round-table discussions of the above-mentioned three groups would get into loud arguments over various controversial issues, but Mr. Hara would simply listen to all opinions intently, and people would notice this and then calm down. It was obvious that his presence at meetings was greatly needed — his position could hardly have been filled adequately by anyone else. The opinions of people involved in the Fund have never been monolithic, with diverging and opposing views on issues such as post-war compensation and the extent of the Diet's responsibility. But from the beginning, during Mr. Hara's more than four years as President, in spite of the various difficulties, we have continued to work together. The Fund has achieved a certain degree of success, and this, I feel more strongly than ever, is due mainly to the unifying force he exerted.
Mr. Hara was a person of few words, but when the time was ripe he would say what had to be said and indicate the course of policy. I have here a memo written by Mr. Hara setting out the basic course of policy. He wrote it at a meeting of the Fund's Board of Directors in the early days when opposing opinions still prevailed. I quote:
The policies set by Mr. Hara were always eminently clear.
- Atonement money to be 2 million yen in every case
- Health and welfare payments (provisional term) to be provided, based on circumstances
- The above to be provided beginning in July of the year after the Fund's establishment or, at the latest, by August 15 of the year after fundraising begins
Now that Mr. Hara has passed away, we find ourselves at something of a loss, but we must continue in all sincerity to ensure that projects promoted under his direction carry on unimpeded. In doing so, we shall repay our debt to him.
So to the memory of our former President I say, "Mr. Hara, thank you ever so much for your guidance and advice."