Breaking five decades of silence, Asian women courageously emerged in the public arena as survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery. The immediate response of the Japanese ruling elite was a blatant disregard of their voices and yet another imposition of silence. Under the circumstances, one fundamental challenge facing international legal scholarship is to make an inquiry into the legal implication of silence consistently forced on victimized survivors. It necessarily ignites a process of re-examining the value premises which dictate the purposes and beneficiaries of the international law.
Behind the forced silence is classical liberalism, the dominant theory of international legal studies. Justifying legal regulation based on the ideas of consent, liberty and equality of states, classical liberalism continuously reproduces the preeminent concept of elitism in international society. The fulcrum of this theory may be broken down into four "isms": euro-centrism, andro-centrism, statism and presentism. Under the pretense of objectivism and stability of legal order, classical liberalism strenuously backs up the ruling elites' inhumane response of suppressing survivors' desperate calls.
Vibrant streams increasingly visible in international legal scene in the 1990', represented inter alia by the Australian-led feminist school, effectively debunks the value premises of mainstream international legal studies, thus leading a world-wide movement to "open up" otherwise closed international law. Deliberately un-silencing voices of the "Others", i.e. non-Europeans, women, citizens and the past (and the future) generations, the new movement has brought forth a welcoming progress in international law in such areas as human rights and humanitarian law. Commonly observed in a number of litigations filed by survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery against the culpable government is a call for the deconstruction of international law so that the voices of the Others are secured therein. Clearly, their call synchronizes the world-wide legal movement to reshape international law.
This essay is intended to portray the value premises and legal implications behind international law arguments presented in connection with the issue of Japanese military sexual slavery. Reference is made as well to a Peoples' Tribunal, the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal 2000 in Tokyo, which in the view of the author, is a manifestation of the dynamic process to open up international law to citizens and women, whose agonies have been unheeded in the state-centered, patriarchal international legal scene.