The Asian Women's Fund (?, zaidan hojin josei-no tame no Ajia heiwa kokumin kikin), also abbreviated to ? in Japanese, was a fund set up by the Japanese government in 1994 to distribute monetary compensation to comfort women in South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and Indonesia. Approximately ¥600 million ($5 million) was donated by the people of Japan and a total of ¥4.8 billion ($40 million) was provided by the Government of Japan. Each survivor was provided with a signed apology from the prime minister, stating "As Prime Minister of Japan, I thus extend anew my most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women." The fund was dissolved on March 31, 2007.
On the Japanese general election on July 18, 1993, the Liberal Democratic Party lost government for the first time since 1955. Tomiichi Murayama became Prime Minister on June 30, 1994, and in 1995 the fund, tentatively named "Josei no Tameno Ajia Heiwa Yuko Kikin (the Asian Peace and Friendship Fund for Women). As expressed by Murayama at a press conference on July 18, 1995 the government's goal was defined as following:
The fund was formally established on June 19, 1995. Bunbei Hara was the first president from 1995-1999. The fund was set up by the Japanese government and run with state funds, and it was under the direct supervision of the Cabinet and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was a quasi public organization, but it was managed by volunteers who were private citizens. South Korea claimed that state redress was what was required, and that the fund was not state redress.
On January 24, 2005 a press conference was held announcing that the fund's would wrap up in March 2007 after the Indonesian projects were completed. On March 6, 2007 a press conference was held and president of the fund Tomiichi Murayama announced that the fund would dissolve on March 31, 2007.
|Medical and welfare
^*2 Among the 109 applicants, 79 were judged to qualify as recipients of the Fund assistance by Netherland NGO. "A few women" including Jan Ruff O'Herne in an ongoing lawsuit rejected the Fund's offer.
^*3 As of 2002
Japan was, and still is, deeply divided over this issue. Some progressives believe that the Japanese leaders should continue to investigate the issue and offer a formal apology. Japanese right-wing conservatives objected to the fund on the basis that it was attempting to solve a "non-existent problem". The conservative Yomiuri newspaper said in an editorial in 2011 "No written material supporting the claim that government and military authorities were involved in the forcible and systematic recruitment of comfort women has been discovered", and that it regarded the fund as a failure based on a misunderstanding of history. Some conservatives have gone so far as to eliminate any mention of comfort women from history books. Some Japanese perceive the comfort women system as a "necessary evil," an inevitable part of war.
One of the main criticisms stated that the AWF was a private fund; South Korea claimed that state redress was what was required, and that the fund was not state redress. However, in January 1997, seven Korean survivors accepted the AWF offer, causing an outrage among leaders and fellow survivors.
Seventy nine women accepted the AWF offer. Some even said that they preferred AWF money over state compensation because it represented "Japanese people who wanted to express their regret to war victims while the latter would be money that was forcibly generated from an unwilling government". Some women who filed the lawsuit rejected the AW offer. The first Dutch woman to come forward, Jan Ruff O'Herne, opposed to the AWF at the urging of the Korean Council.
Maria Rosa Henson, the first Filipina to come forward with her story, was among the first to accept the AWF offer. She and two other women accepted the AWF money and letter of apology in August 1996. It is estimated that a hundred Filipina women have been recipients of the AWF offer.