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:

「秦さんらは私の書いた本をあれこれ言いますがね。まあ、本に真実を書いても何の利益もない。関係者に迷惑をかけてはまずいから、カムフラージュした部分もあるんですよ。だから、クマラスワミさんとの面談も断りました。事実を隠し、自分の主張を混ぜて書くなんていうのは、新聞だってやることじゃありませんか。チグハグな部分があってもしょうがない」

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".

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