Saturday, March 10, 2007

The background of the comfort women issue: III. Asahi Shimbun---an alchemist of "inconvenient truths"

The first of the apologies by Japanese politicians related to the comfort women issue was made in 1992 by then-PM Miyazawa Kiichi (宮沢喜一) during his visit to South Korea. Prior to his visit by 5 days, Asahi Shimbun (朝日新聞: a major Japanese leftist newspaper) reported, as the day's top story, the "discovery" of an evidence proving the commitment by the Japanese military to the recruitment of comfort women and the installation of comfort stations (military camp brothels) during WWII". Here's its excerpt:


There has been revealed on (Jan) 10 to exist, at the library of the Defense Agency's Research Institute of Defense, (Japanese governmental) notifications and Army journals showing that the Imperial Japanese Military was involved in the installation of comfort stations and the recruitment of comfort women during the Sino-Japanese and the Pacific wars.

Japanese government had not admitted at the Diet that its was involved in (the recruitment and supervision of) Korean comfort women, saying "private employers took them here and there". Former Korean comfort women (and their supporters) brought a lawsuit against Japanese government for compensation last December (1991), and South Korean government has also been requesting Japan to clarify the historical facts (related to the issue).

The discovery, at the Defense Agency, of documents showing Japan's governmental commitment (to the recruitment of comfort women, etc) is likely to give a fatal damage to the government's heretofore point of view (over this issue). It now requests the government to pledge a new measure with regard to the issue, as well as PM Miyazawa, now burdened with a serious obligation in his visit to South Korea scheduled on (Jan) 16.

The "discovery" was reportedly made by Prof. Yoshimi Yoshiaki (吉見義明) of Chuo University, who appeared in the previous post as one of the key persons in the "sex slave" propaganda. Although Asahi says it was revealed on Jan 10, the actual date of the "discovery" was earlier by at least a few weeks, told Prof. Hata of Chiba University. It is clear that Asahi intentionally delayed the release of this news, by a political aim, to right before PM's visit to Korea.

Unlike Asahi's prediction, the "discovery" was actually nothing new. It is a common sense, and it had been before the "discovery" as well, that the government was involved in the recruitment of comfort women and the management of comfort stations, since every private brothel manager had to be qualified as "appropriate" for doing business at the camp, and they of course had to totally depend on the Japanese military in the transportation of comfort women from the Korean peninsula to camps in far-apart frontlines.

It is clear, therefore, that if the Japanese government had been saying something like that "private employers took the comfort women here and there" (i.e. the comfort women were doing their business under their private employers), that does NOT follow that the government had been denying its commitment to the management of military brothels, transportation of comfort women, etc. What the officials had been denying (and they still are) is just that the recruitment of comfort women was conducted by the Japanese military in any coercive manner.

As a matter of fact, in the notification "discovered" by Prof. Yoshimi, the Japanese military authority ordered its troops in the Chinese frontline to carefully choose appropriate brothel managers to prevent them from recruiting comfort women by any brutal manner, as a few pimps in mainland Japan were lately arrested for such cases. How can this be "an evidence of coercion of Korean women by the Japanese military"?

Asahi's trick is this way: first to give the readers a preconception like "the government is hiding an inconvenient truth", and then show them "an evidence of the governmental commitment", thereby misleading the readers into thinking as though there were any coercion by the military. Hereby the nationwide "sex slave" propaganda succeeded in forcing the PM into apology for what didn't occur.

Asahi says in its editorial on Wednesday (Mar 7) as follows:

Abe seems fixated on the word "coercion," and this is what has made his remarks difficult to understand. The prime minister explained Monday that there was "coercion in the broad sense of the word," citing the fact that traders effectively recruited the women by force. But Abe said there was no "coercion in the strict sense of the word," as in authorities abducting the women.

However, in the overall process of recruiting, transporting and supervising the women, there were obviously situations where coercion was used. The Kono statement takes this position. It is hardly gracious of Abe, the prime minister of Japan, to split hairs over the trivial definition or distinction of a word.

(Original Japanese text published on the day before:) 首相には「強制性」について、こだわりがあるようだ。それが首相の発言をわかりにくくしている。



The original text says "全体として強制性を認めるべき実態があったことは明らかだろう (it will be obvious that there were situations where coerciveness should be admitted as a whole)". No doubt Asahi cannot say "there was coercion" any longer inside Japan because the trick used in its 1992 "scoop" is commonly known inside Japan now, whereas they can keep on deceiving, by the very same trick, overseas readers lacking in basic knowledge of the historical background of how the "sex slave" propaganda was launched.

Actually there are lots of more misleading "scoops" of this kind, reported by Asahi for the past several decades: like "government to order publishers to delete the word 'invasion' out of their history textbooks", "Japanese Army's experiments on living human in Manchuria proved by newly released photos", "Ruling LDP politicians push NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) to cut 'inappropriate' scenes off the TV program", etc, etc... As mentioned earlier, I guess they are part of the Japanese leftist activitists' survival strategy. Facing the unrecoverable decline of their movement under the Cold War approaching its end, they realized that the only way left for them to survive was talking about Japan's past instead of its future: that is, to keep on condemning Japan's "wartime atrocity" instead of organizing Japanese people for revolution.

It is rarely the case that Asahi makes any apology for them after its tricks come out. In fact, even after Yoshida Seiji (the author of the fake "coercion" story mentioned in the previous post) admitted his fabrication, Asahi has not even made a correction of its repeated citations of the book.




Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The background of the comfort women issue: II. A man called "a professional liar"

As stated in the previous post, the comfort women issue originated from Yoshida Seiji (吉田清治)'s 1983 book, in which he "confessed" that he took 205 female resident in Jeju island by coercion. However, as the book was translated into Korean in 1989, local residents unanimously denied the coercion referred to in the book, saying that no one witnessed it then, Jeju Shinmun reported on Aug 14, 1989, in a signatured article by journalist Huh Yung-sun (허영선).

This news came to be known in Japan in the Spring of 1992 by Hata Ikuhiko (秦郁彦), professor of Chiba University, who visited Jeju Island for an individual investigation on the credibility of Yoshida's book. Hata also seems to have confirmed there are no eyewitnesses of the coercion, by interviewing several old local residents in person.

It should be noticed that Hata's investigation was carried out shortly after PM Miyazawa's visit to South Korea. That is, even after the first lawsuit by the former comfort women was brought into a Japanese court, and even after Japan's PM expressed remorse over the "govermental commitment to the coercion", there were at least several local residents who regarded it as groundless that there was any coercion like currently claimed by the former comfort women. (The background of Miyazawa's apology will be mentioned in detail, later in another post.)

Despite all the problems in its credibility repeatedly pointed out since right after it was published, Yoshida's book, as well as his speeches and interviews, was quoted by not a few Japanese journalism, particularly by Asahi Shimbun (朝日新聞: a major Japanese leftist newspaper), as an evidence to support the fact of coercion. Yoshida succeeded in initiating a nationwide sex slave propaganda by Japanese mass-media. This seems to have rapidly propagated into Korea: for example, the former comfort women and their supporters, who brought the first lawsuit against Japanese government in 1991, referred to Yoshida's book in their petition.

It was in 1996, shortly after the Coomara-swamy report was submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee, that Yoshida admitted, in an interview with Shukan Shincho (週刊新潮), the fabrication of his 1983 book. Here's what he said in the interview:


I know Mr. Hata and other persons say this and that about my book; I'd rather say it's useless telling a truth in a book. I did make some camouflage in the book so that I shouldn't put the concerned persons to inconvenience. And that's why I refused to meet Ms. Coomara-swamy. You know, hiding away the truth and putting your personal opinion here and there in the article, that's just the way newspapers do as well as I. It's natural that sometimes there's inconsistency in it.

Why did Yoshida admit his lie after 13 years passed since his book was published? I guess he had been waiting for a chance to "vail out" from the campaign since long. He must have realized that the former comfort women and their supporters didn't need him any longer, now that the sexual slavery propaganda can seek its legitimacy in the Kono statement (1993) and the Coomara-swamy report. In fact, Professor Yoshimi Yoshiaki (吉見義明) of Chuo University, one of the key persons in the sex slave propaganda, gave some advice to Ms. Coomara-swamy by mail, saying:

「誤りの原因について述べますと、George Hicks, The Comfort Women に依拠した点が問題です。...また Hicks 氏が引用している吉田氏の著書の「慰安婦」徴集の部分は、多くの疑問が出されているにもかかわらず、吉田氏は反論していません。…吉田氏が反論することは困難だと思われます。吉田氏の本に依拠しなくても、強制の事実は証明することができる(原文註:誰が強制したかを別にすれば、日本政府も徴集時や慰安所での強制を認めている)ので、吉田氏に関連する部分は必ず削除することをお勧めします」

(The notes contain) some problem in the portion based on "The Comfort Women" by George Hicks. ...Moreover, Mr. Yoshida, whose book is quoted by Mr. Hicks, has not made any remark on the problems pointed out with respect to the part of his book referring to the recruitement of the "comfort women". ...It will be difficult for Mr. Yoshida to make any rebuttal. It is strongly recommended that the part related to Mr. Yoshida should be deleted (from the notes); it is still possible to prove the fact of coercion without his book, since the Japanese government has admitted that there was coercion in recruiting (the comfort women), and one at the brothels as well, apart from who did it.

What Prof. Yoshimi is saying here is, in a word, "we don't need Yoshida any longer, now that we've got the Kono statement".



The background of the comfort women issue: I. Chronicle

During the last several weeks, I encountered quite a lot of suggestive and meaningful posts related to the comfort women issue at several English blogs I usually read. I am sure quite a few Japanese people find it very encouraging that the issue is coming to the fore among the western bloggers, since the majority of the English mass-media, in/outside Japan, seem to have somewhat biased point of view over this issue (like Norimitsu Onishi of the New York Times, extremely notorious in Japan as a typical case).

Actually the controversy over the "coerciveness" in the recruitment of comfort women, management of the brothels, etc, is almost over in Japan: the conclusion is that they were professional prostitute, or camp followers, most of whom were sold by their parent to Korean pimps because of poverty.

(Don't get me wrong, readers, I'm not denying the tragedies that happened to their lives, but that's one thing and whether there was any systematic commitment by the Japanese governmental/military personnels is another.)

The problem is that very few of the documents and commentaries issued by Japanese government officials, as well as the result of the studies by private researchers, are available in English, which is the major factor that had caused a gap between Japanese and foreign people's points of view over the issue. It will be meaningful, to some extent, to introduce the background of the controversy to people outside Japan who are interested in the issue (wish I could write better in English, though). Follows are the chronicle of the emergence of the issue:

A Japanese man named Yoshida Seiji (吉田清治) first claims in his book, that he took over 1,000 Korean women by coercion as sex slaves during WWII (「私の戦争犯罪──朝鮮人強制連行(My War Crime---The Coercion of Koreans)」 , 三一書房 San-ichi Shobo).
The Korean edition of Yoshida's book is published in South Korea ("나는 조선사람을 이렇게 잡아갔다 (This Is The Way I Took Koreans by Coercion)", 청계연구소 Cheong-gye Yeonguso). Local residents in Jeju Island, where Yoshida claims to have kidnapped 205 women, blame the book for its "shameless commercialism", saying that the coercion is "groundless" (제주신문 Jeju shinmun, Aug 14, 1989).
Motooka Shoji (本岡昭次), a lawmaker of Japan Socialist Party, takes the issue for the first time into the Diet, questioning the "forcibility" in the comfort woman system.
A group of South Korean "victims" of Japan's "war-time atrocity", including nine former comfort women, bring the first lawsuit calling Japanese government for compensation. The above-mentioned controversial book is quoted by them, as an evidence of the "coercion".
Japanese government, as well as private researchers and "human rights activists" both in Japan and South Korea, independently make a series of investigations of the issue. Dozens of former comfort women make testimony in at least 6 hearings during the investigations, none of whom successfully describe the situation of the "coercion".
PM Miyazawa Kiichi (宮沢喜一) visits South Korea. Prior to his visit by 5 days, a Japanese leftist newspaper reports the "discovery of an evidence of the systematic commitment by the Japanee government" to the recruitment of comfort women and the management of comfort stations (朝日新聞 Asahi Shimbun, Jan 11). Amid booming anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea, Miyazawa expresses remorse during his visit.
On Aug 4, after the second investigation made by Japanese government, chief cabinet secretary Kono Yohei (河野洋平) issues an official statement admitting the "commitment of administrative/military personnels" to the coercion.
On Jan 4, the Coomara-swamy report, condemning Japan's war-time "sexual slavery" mainly based on Yoshida's book and the former comfort women's testimony, is submitted to the UN Human Rights Committee.
A few months after the submission of the Coomara-swamy report, Yoshida admits his controversial book to be a fabrication.
The description of "Japan's sexual slavery during the WWII" is added in the history textbooks for junior high school students.

The biggest mystery to the people outside Japan is, I guess, the sudden emergence of the controversy after more than 40 years have passed since the end of WWII. In my opinion, this is tightly associated with the decline of the Japanese leftist activities in the 1980s. Facing the Cold War coming to an end, the leftists had to seek their new legitimacy, and they found it in the condemnations of Japan's "war-time atrocity" together with the "victims" abroad.