Nov 5, 2013

An Introduction to the "Comfort Women Issue" for The New York Times (Minor Update)

Original source by Nobuo Ikeda
Translated by randomyoko

The Comfort Women Issue Has Been Taken Up by the NY Times


On January 2nd of this year, The New York Times digitally published an editorial article entitled, "Another Attempt to Deny Japan’s History." It is odd that The New York Times has commented on this issue, as America has almost nothing to do with Japanese-Korean relations. The article itself is written in a tone so strong that you wouldn't even get to read it in Japanese newspapers.
Japan’s new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, seems inclined to start his tenure with a serious mistake that would inflame tensions with South Korea and make cooperation harder. He has signaled that he might seek to revise Japan’s apologies for its World War II aggression, including one for using Koreans and other women as sex slaves. 
In 1993, Japan finally acknowledged that the Japanese military had raped and enslaved thousands of Asian and European women in army brothels, and offered its first full apology for those atrocities […] 
It is not clear how Mr. Abe, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, might modify the apologies, but he has previously made no secret of his desire to rewrite his country’s wartime history. Any attempt to deny the crimes and dilute the apologies will outrage South Korea, as well as China and the Philippines, which suffered under Japan’s brutal wartime rule.
Mr. Abe’s shameful impulses could threaten critical cooperation in the region on issues like North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Such revisionism is an embarrassment to a country that should be focused on improving its long-stagnant economy, not whitewashing the past.
(emphasis added)
In Japan, nowadays, there are very few media outlets which insist on discussing the controversial issue of whether or not those women were forced to accompany Japanese soldiers. The Asahi Shimbun, which triggered this whole issue, even withdrew a previous editorial article in which they acknowledged the existence of forced company, expressing that modifying the Kono Statement announced in 1993, in which the government had apologized for the issue of comfort women, is equivalent to "seeing only a branch and not the whole stem." 

In the mean time, the comfort women issue has persistently been taken up in the United States, with such examples as the New York State Legislature submitting a resolution which asks the Japanese government to apologize to former comfort women. Most of the language surrounding the issue features absurd expressions, describing the event as "the biggest instance of human trafficking in the 20th century." It is disappointing that even The New York Times has made claims that the Japanese military raped and enslaved those women.

It is impossible to convince most Koreans on this issue, and America plays a big role in that. It would be ideal if the United States were willing to be the bridge between Japan and Korea, but the Department of State has expressed their opinion that if Japan modified the Kono Statement, it would complicate problems between Japan and Korea. The editorial in The New York Times is most likely a reflection of American government policies like this. 

Politically speaking, this might be a reasonable judgement. On this issue, it is impossible to correct Korea's misunderstanding. However, at least there is a desire on behalf of westerners to understand the issue of comfort women. This is why, even though it may take a long time, we must look back and confirm the facts of which western media is fundamentally unaware, or perhaps, has misinterpreted.

The Disturbance All Started From a Con-man's Lies


Since long ago, there has been an urban legend which tells of the Japanese military having served "comfort women", however, even the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea in 1965 doesn't claim any associated reparations. The expression, "military comfort women", was created by a Japanese reporter, and what's more is, there is no proof that such a phrase was ever used during the war.

However, in 1983, a former Japanese army soldier, Seiji Yoshida published a book entitled, "My War Crimes." In his book, Mr. Yoshida claims that he went to Jeju island, and that he went on a "comfort women hunt" to draft a lot of women into the women's volunteer corps and to take them to the battle fields. This was proclaimed by a lot of media outlets as a "courageous testimony," despite the fact that his statements about time and place were vague, and didn't declare who did the hunt and where. Because of this, the local newspaper publishing company of Jeju island went on an investigation and discovered that there was no such village which appeared in the book, nor proof that the Japanese army had ever come to that place.

Since there were no other persons who shared this kind of testimony, there arose suspicion that his statement had been fabricated and he was interrogated by Japanese historians like Ikuhiko Hata. He ended up confessing in 1996 that the story was fictional. Ordinarily, it might be hard to believe that someone would announce that they had committed crimes, but as for war experiences, there are some "con-men" that try to make money with their books and lectures, using an exaggerated account of "repentance" in order to get attention.

Usually, this would be the end of the story, but since the story of Yoshida was taken up by the Korean media was well, in 1990, "The Conference of Countermeasure Against the Volunteer Corps" was formed to ask that Japan pay reparations for the comfort women. In response to this movement, lawyers in Japan such as Kenichi Takagi and Mizuho Fukushima looked for an accuser with the intention of bringing a lawsuit against the Japanese government. The woman who turned up was Kim Hak-sun.

Coming to Japan in August, 1991, she got the attention of the media for being the first case in which one of the legendary "comfort women" brought herself into the public light, as well as for being the accuser in a lawsuit. I was working on a TV program about the anniversary of the end of the war at the NHK TV station in Osaka, but it was Ms. Fukushima who came there to sell Kim out.

Kim testified that she was sold by her parents and became a gi‐saeng, and that her father-in-law took her to the comfort women brothel of the Japanese military. The military scrip with which she was paid lost its value as soon as the war had ended, and it was this event which prompted her to ask for compensation from the Japanese government for damages.

We decided to go on location to investigate the actual conditions, dividing into two groups. My team interviewed males and the other team was in charge of the comfort women. We were guided by a Korean who was involved in the reparations process, and we ended up interviewing around 50 people in total—both males and females altogether. However, to my surprise, not one person said, "I was captured by the Japanese military," or "I was forced to work."

In those days, it was during the period of Korea's annexation, but the pay was about half that of the interior, which kept the people there poor. Therefore, a lot of them would go to the mainland to work. The mainland is where Korean employment agencies would go to make money by mediating to get such people a job in a coal mine and so on, for its brokerage.

The ships that carried such laborers belonged to the military. As for comfort women, it was often the case that the military conducted hygiene management for the comfort women brothels. There were certainly affairs where comfort women had been deceived and couldn't escape from the business, but it was the traders that would imprison them. It is not a desirable thing, but those were commercial transactions made by traders, and the nation owes no responsibility for that.

No matter how much I investigated, there appeared to be no case of forced conditions, and so the TV program didn't have an impact. It did draw attention to the fact that a comfort woman had come forward for the first time, but it was little more than the story of a licensed prostitute. Afterward, NHK did not chase the story.

The "Forced Company" Was a False Report by Asahi Shimbun


Interestingly, when Kim Hak-sun came forward, Asahi Shimbun published an article of the "scoop" by Takashi Uemura, which reported, "It turns out that one of the 'Military Korean Comfort Women' who were forced to the battle field to engage in prostitution activities with the Japanese soldiers, lives in Seoul."

Following that, in January, 1992, the newspaper published an article that revealed a notification concerning the management of comfort women brothels submitted by the Japanese military, claiming, "The material shows the military's involvement." Since the Asahi explanation of comfort women at this time had claimed that those women were forced to accompany the military as a volunteer corps, the Prime Minister, Kiichi Miyazawa, apologized to the Korean president, Roh Tae-woom, when he visited Korea right after the article had been published.

However, in actuality, that notification was a message to traders: "Do not kidnap the comfort women". In fact, there is no hard evidence, nor any document, which suggests that the military had abducted those women. Though, because the Korean government had asked for reparations from the Japanese government, it became an issue between the two.

In 1992, the Japanese government (Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato) announced the result of an investigation which revealed that the former Japanese military had been directly involved with hygiene management for the comfort women brothels, but that there were no materials to prove the theory that the comfort women were forced to accompany Japanese soldiers. Therefore the problem whether Japanese government was involved or not is agreed by both sides.

However, Korean government didn't stopped criticism demanding Japan to admit the coercion. For this reason, in 1993, the Japanese government announced the so-called Kono Statement. The issue is described as follows in the written statement.
As for the recruitment of comfort women, the traders that received such requests for it were in charge, and in this situation also, there were many cases in which these women were gathered against their will via honeyed words, pressure and so forth. In addition to that, it turns out that government officials had directly assisted in this at times as well. Moreover, it was a painful way of living, to have been forced to be at the comfort women brothels. (emphasis added)
It became the cause of later problems that, for no reason, such nonsense words as, "government officials had directly assisted in this", had been inserted. In regards to this issue, in 2007, Abe's Cabinet had made a cabinet decision over the written answer, which clearly states that among the materials which the government had found at the time of the investigation's announcement, there is no written description to directly show that military or government officials had supposedly forced the women to accompany soldiers. (emphasis added)

Therefore, the government's dictum was that "there was no forced company." However, because the written answer said that the "Chief Cabinet Secretary Statement is right," the government ended up following the Kono Statement, which says that "government officials had directly assisted in this." At this time, the branch manager of The New York Times, Norimitsu Onishi, took up the comfort women issue and reported the testimony of "former comfort women." Due to this publication, Prime Minister Abe was forced into a situation that required him to apologize for Japan when he visited the United States.

Misunderstanding and Confusion Expanded the Problem


As I witnessed the simultaneous process, I got a strong impression that misunderstanding had piled up and the flame spread unexpectedly. First of all, if it is the case that laborers from the Korean Peninsula were exploited, the issue of the male laborers is, by far, a much bigger, more serious problem than that of comfort women.

For example, towards the end of World War II, Chinese laborers had revolted against the severe labor environment of Hanaoka mine in Akita prefecture, which resulted in the death of over 400 people due to violence and slaughter. This case is a testament to the fact that there was forced labor. However, even in this case, as you can see from the family of the deceased asking Kashima for indemnification after the war, it was private-sector corporations that were in charge when it came to forced labor.

Compared to the supposed 600,000 forced male laborers, the tally of comfort women is said to be around tens of thousands of workers, being much smaller in scale. It is also said that they were receiving pay equal to more than twenty times that of private soldiers. The only reason why comfort women received so much attention was because Seiji Yoshida had written of these cases in a manner which presented them as bizarre rapes. It seems that he wrote about such events in order to make extra money, but because Japanese lawyers wanted to take advantage of it by making a class suit out of it, the issue escalated.

When I first heard the story of Kim Hak-sun, she was saying that she was "sold by her parents," and it was written so on the petition as well. Even today, no one knows the process of how her testimony was replaced to reflect that she had been "abducted by the military" after the report by Asahi Shimbun.

There is suspicion that the article of the reporter, Uemura, had been fabricated, as the leader of the plaintiff party was the mother-in-law of Uemura. On the other hand, considering that he had accepted the lies told by Yoshida, of the "women's volunteer corps," he might have simply believed Yoshida's testimony, convinced that he had "gathered the evidence."

It was Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor of Chuo University, who cooperated in the interview for Asahi Shimbun. His book, Military Comfort Women (Iwanami Shoten Publishers), has been published in English, and this is another cause for further misunderstanding, as it is the only source of reference for populations overseas.

It was only after the forced company report of Asahi Shimbun that Yoshiaki started to investigate this issue. Therefore, from the beginning, his input on the matter was biased in that it sought to find proof for forced company. Even though the previous notification was meant to prohibit abduction, Mr. Yoshimi had wrongly interpreted the message, reading it as if it had been an order to abduct. This caused more confusion.

Last year, the mayor of Osaka city, Hashimoto, stated that "Mr. Yoshimi has admitted that there was no forced company," and yet in his protest note, he wrote, "Even in those days, it was a crime to sack, abduct, and engage in human trafficking and take women from Japan, Korea and Taiwan. I have said that abduction and human trafficking also mean forced company."

This means that he has acknowledged the fact that in Korea, there were no cases in which the Japanese military had drafted women to be their comfort women, yet he is calling the acts of abduction and human trafficking by non-governmental people "forced company." If he defines such terms in this way, the obvious implication is that there had been forced company, and that the government has admitted to it from the beginning. In this way, Mr. Yoshimi and Asahi Shimbun replaced the issue of the nation's responsibility with women's rights.

The Ill‐managed Response of the Japanese Government


It was the ill-managed correspondence of the government that played a crucial role in making what Asahi Shimbun had started, worse. According to the briefing of Mr. Kono, the reason why he wrote in his statement that "government officials had directly assisted in this at times as well," was because of a matter involving violations of military discipline which happened in Indonesia (Pertempuran Lima Hari). This was the case of rape that private soldiers had participated in, and their leaders were executed as class-B and class-C war criminals.

However, there was no clear description of this in the Kono Statement, which resulted in the misunderstanding that government officials forced company even on the Korean Peninsula. Nobuo Ishihara, the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary at that time, elaborated on the reasons as to why they had chosen to make such a misleading expression in the interview by Sankei Shimbun.
At that time, while the Korean side was persistently appealing for the inclusion of comfort women recruitment and forced company in the statement, they were unofficially proposing that the "comfort women issue is a matter of their fame, and therefore, they won't request compensation at the personal level." The Japanese side had anticipated that if Japan admitted to acts of forced company, the Korean side might lay down their arms. It was this strategy which led the Japanese side to convey to the Korean side that they would admit to the acts forced company before their announcement.
There was no document which proved such enforcement, but by using the vague expression that there might have been some acts of forced company, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs attempted to bring forth a political settlement with the Korean government. As a result, however, this action was taken to mean that "Japan has admitted to the acts of forced company," and the Korean government made a big spectacle of it and spun the issue out of control.

Even after that, the report arranged by Ms. Coomaraswamy, a member of the UN Human Rights Commission, pressured the Japanese government for compensation and the execution of the people involved, defining comfort women as "sex slaves". Her report, however, was based on the Kono Statement.

The Japanese government established an incorporated foundation called, "The National Fund For A Peaceful Asia for Women (The Asian Women's Fund)," and paid about 1.3 billion yen as "indemnification" for former comfort women. Additionally, successive prime ministers sent out "a letter of apology". And thus, the government kept portraying an attitude that said, "There was no forced company, but we are sorry." This repeated message served to firmly establish misunderstanding about the issue all over the world.

This was around the time when the overseas media started to show an interest, but more importantly, it meant that they were not aware of the process by which the issue of comfort women had begun to be regarded as "slave hunting by the military." For them, the issue of comfort women became a issue of women's rights from the beginning, and therefore, the idea of "no forced company" appears to be merely an excuse. Despite there being no proof to support claims by former comfort women, that "I was forced to accompany soldiers," the overseas media continue to believe this statement, something Kim was told to say by her lawyer.

It was surprising that during a conversation I had with a reporter of the Tokyo branch of The New York Times, Hiroko Tabuchi, when I told her that "There is no proof to support the testimony of the former comfort women," she responded with, "So, do you think that they're liars?" For them, comfort women are the victims, and the Japanese military is the criminal, which only leaves them with the belief that such poor victims can't lie.

This type of psychological tendency that causes people to only see those facts which corroborate their prejudice, is called  confirmation bias. It's because the overseas media started to treat this issue with the misunderstanding that "The Japanese military had participated in human trafficking on such a big scale," that they misinterpreted the issue of whether or not it was done by government officials as the issue of the "comfort women = human trafficking = forced company" equation. And so, they kept reporting it in this way.

What's Needed Isn't Criticism But a Cure


Thus, depending on what perspective the "comfort women issue" is viewed from, the answer varies. At first, the focus of the issue was on the abductions carried out by the military, the so-called "comfort women hunts". Consider this example: in the last years of World War II, the Nazis are said to have had government managed prostitution facilities for the bodyguards and concentration camp guards. This is what the leader of the bodyguards, Hitler, had founded for the enhancement of a fighting spirit, and it is said that there were such facilities within twelve concentration camps, like Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria.

If Japan had had this type of systematic governmental prostitution, and forced those women to accompany soldiers and be imprisoned, the Japanese government would have to apologize to the Korean government regardless of any indemnity liability provided by law. Since what Asahi Shimbun had first reported was similar to the kind of image portrayed by the Nazis, the issue developed into a major problem.

However, even with the governmental investigation, proof of forced company by the military never seemed to come out. Not only are there no documents, but aside from the stories of the self‐professed former comfort women—which have changed again and again—no soldiers that were alleged to have participated in the forcing of company, nor any witnesses of that, have ever surfaced. The majority of comfort women were Japanese, but even their testimony has not surfaced.

Recently, Mr. Yoshimi has admitted that he cannot factually confirm that women from Korea and Taiwan, under the control of Japan at the time, were abducted and taken overseas by the military. He says, "There was forced company in China and Eastern Asia," but the only proof of that is the judicial report of Pertempuran Lima Hari. That report was executed in response to a violation of military discipline, which means that this is rather proof of the Japanese military prohibiting forced company.

Thus, at least for Korea, historians have agreed that there is no proof of the Japanese military forcing women from Korea to accompany soldiers. The the problem now is resolving the facts. If you conclude that "the abduction or human trafficking by traders are also considered to be forced company," it is only recognition that such things happened. Yet, those matters are not the responsibility of the Japanese military.

However, in The New York times article, it says, "The Japanese military raped and enslaved thousands of Asian and European women in army brothels." The subject is the Japanese military, but the expressions used are not very clear, and seem to view the matter as the Japanese military having forced Korean women to become their "sex slaves."

At first, according to Yoshida's story, the claim was that there was a "slave hunt" for Korean women. Yet, as soon as this was revealed to be a lie, Asahi Shimbun, Mr. Yoshimi, and others, distorted the issue by reframing the argument with vagueness. This was accomplished by stretching the meaning of the issue by saying that "the human trafficking by the traders is also forced company". In turn, overseas media outlets such as The New York Times followed this movement; this is the source of all this confusion. There are contradictions within the resolutions of the American Congress, which highlight the problem of forced company while criticizing human trafficking. If the Japanese military had abducted women using violence, there would have been no need for human trafficking.

It is an irreparable mistake that the Japanese government has apologized for such events without clarifying where the responsibility lies. It sounds like nothing more than an excuse to say that this was all the "enforcement of narrow sense and broad sense" at this late point, and it's difficult to think that the world will take that explanation seriously. The recognition of the state of affairs by the State Department, in a statement saying, "Japan defending itself won't improve its position," is sad but true.

As a first step in finding a way out of this deadlock, it is essential to have the overseas media understand that this issue was born from lies and misunderstanding. However, if such entities are haunted by the obsessive idea that "the Japanese military is a vicious sex offender," it is no use to criticize by saying, "you're wrong."

What is needed now is a cure which helps the overseas media to become aware of their bias. The first step to a mutual understanding is to explain how the comfort women issue occurred, where the misunderstanding happened, and what kind of misinterpreting has expanded the problem, in order to remove the preconception that's been imprinted in their minds.


Jun 4, 2013

An Introduction to the "Comfort Women Issue" for The New York Times (PDF)

This is a PDF version (143KB).

An Introduction to the "Comfort Women Issue" on YouTube

May 19, 2013

U.S. Army's "Comfort Women"

Mayor Hashimoto is right when he said that almost all Armies in various countries used some kind of prostitutes. In WW2, there were many documents that German, Russian, and English Army employed many prostitutes. They were unofficial, but Nazis set up an state-run brothel in concentration camps.

Even after WW2, the U.S. Army used Recreation and Amusement Association that employed more than 50,000 prostitutes in Japan. They were official institution supported by Japanese goverment.

The U.S. Army employed many prostitutes in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. According to Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, Peter Arnett, a respected journalist who reported the Vietnam War testified as follows:
By 1966, official military brothels had been established within each division’s camp. Each one was a two-building “recreation area” where 60 Vietnamese women lived and worked. The prostitutes decorated their cubicles with nude photographs from Playboy magazine and had silicone injected into their breasts to make the American soldiers feel more at home.
Arnett said that these "recreation areas" were authorized by the Chief of Staff and the Defense Department. He estimated that more than 300,000 prostitutes worked during the Vietnam War.

They were neither kidnapped by the Army nor sold by human trafficking, but it was not only Japanese Army that employed prostitutes in the battle field. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

Jan 14, 2013

Krugman's Russian Roulette for Japan

Paul Krugman praises PM Shinzo Abe for his "unorthodox" fiscal and monetary policy.
Whatever his motives, Mr. Abe is breaking with a bad orthodoxy. And if he succeeds, something remarkable may be about to happen: Japan, which pioneered the economics of stagnation, may also end up showing the rest of us the way out.
As Krugman says, Abe's policy is "old-fashioned pork-barrel". Since Abe knows little of economics, his policy was actually implemented by Financial Minister Tarou Asou, who was expelled from Prime Minister by 2009 election.

Krugman is right when he says that monetary policy is irrelevant because Japan is trapped by deflation. So he recommends a Keynesian fiscal policy to push Japan out of long recession. Although it has had little effectin the US, he insists it was too little and urges American government to spend much more, which Abe and Asou are trying to do.

However, it is not obvious that such policy can get Japan out of stagnation and maintain growth for a long time. Indeed there is a GDP gap of minus 3.1 percent, so potential output might be achieved by filling this gap by government spending theoretically. Krugman seems to assume that there are multiple equilibria a la Cooper-John as follows:

If government spending could push Japanese economy out of A, an inferior equilibrium, it might reach a superior equilibrium B. If such an equilibrium exists, for example, an inflation by 2 per cent would be a self-sustaining path theoretically. But it is implausible because money stock (M2)  is very stable since 1992 while monetary base fluctuated as high as 36 per cent as follows.


Growth of monetary base (green) and M2 (red) in Japan (%)

If, on the other hand,  such superior equilibrium doesn't exit, Krugman's Big Push is a risky policy that might push Japanese economy out of equilibrium forever as follows.

Of course we don't know whether we are in an inferior equilibrium of multiple equilibria or only one stable equilibrium. But as Japan is facing far more serious financial risk than that of the US, Krugman's recommendation might be a Russian Roulette for Japan.

Jan 5, 2013

Open letter to the editor of NY Times

Dear editor,

I have a comment about your editorial "Another Attempt to Deny Japan’s History" on January 2. As Ms. Hiroko Tabuchi at NYT Tokyo bureau recommended, I send this as a "letter to the editor". As I publish this as an open letter here and Agora in Japanese, you don't have to publish this.

I was one of the first journalists who covered "comfort women" when I was working for NHK TV station in August 1991. When we interviewed Kim Hak-soon, the first woman who came out as a comfort woman, she said that she was sold by parents to Korean brothels and transferred to military brothels in China by private agents.

But in January 1992, Asahi Shimbun ran a story about a military document of comfort women. It was a document to prohibit private agent's kidnapping of women, but Asahi mistook it as an evidence of military kidnapping. And Kim changed the story that she was kidnapped by the Army.

This "sex slave" story misled NYT and other foreign media. Since many people pointed out the error, Asahi reluctantly admitted that they could not prove the military coercion, but they switched the focus to the coercion in the broad sense by private agents. It is only foreign media that still attack Japan's military coercion.

It was clear that there were prostitutes sold by human trafficking in the pre-war era and that Japanese Army managed the brothels, as usual in the world. In Indonesia, an accident was documented, as Ms. O’Herne witnessed, but the soldiers who raped her were punished by Japanese Army because they prohibited coercion.

This is not a problem of "whitewashing" the past but historical facts. In fact there is little disagreement among historians: there was human trafficking by private agents but no military order for abduction. Before you attack PM Abe's "shameful impulses", you had better read new articles about history without prejudice.

Best regards,

Ikeda

Jan 4, 2013

NYT's shameful accusation without proof

After Tokyo correspondent Martin Fackler criticized Abe administration's move to revise Kono Statement, the NY Times posted an Editorial that insists
Any attempt to deny the crimes and dilute the apologies will outrage South Korea, as well as China and the Philippines, which suffered under Japan’s brutal wartime rule. Mr. Abe’s shameful impulses could threaten critical cooperation in the region on issues like North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Such revisionism is an embarrassment to a country that should be focused on improving its long-stagnant economy, not whitewashing the past.
And Op-ed article "Japan Can Champion Women’s Rights" by Mary M. McCarthy, an Assistent Professor of Drake University. It's a repetition of old lie. McCarthy writes,
O’Herne was one of up to 200,000 mostly Korean, but also Chinese, Dutch, Japanese, Filipino, Indonesian and other women coerced into sexual servitude by the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces."
"Shameful impulses" and "whitewashing" are not polite words, but there is no evidence that supports NYT's accusation. No evidence of "coercion by the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces" was not found outside Indonesia.

In fact O’Herne's case is the only one accident that Japanese Army abducted women, for which soldiers were executed by the Army. NYT reporter Onishi couldn't find the evidence outside Indonesia. Even Prof. Yoshimi admitted that there was no military abduction in Korea.

It is not the first time that NYT accuse Japanese government without proof. I wonder why they are so enthusiastic about the fake problem of "comfort women", when their friend Asahi Shimbun has become silent because they know they fabricated the story.

If NYT wants Japanese government to apologize, they should show material evidences that the Japanese Army ordered to kidnap women from Korea. Without proof, PM Abe and his colleague in the Cabinet don't change their mind.

Fackler is, unlike Onishi, a nice guy who understands Japanese. NYT can change the history by investigating the truth of "comfort women". It is not so difficult, because many historians agree with the facts.

Jan 3, 2013

PM Abe should revise the Kono Statement


According to Sankei Shimbun, Prime Minister Abe said that there was no evidence of military abduction of "comfort women" in the documents that Japanese government investigated. He said that since Kono Statement in 1993 was not an official decision of the Cabinet it should be examined by experts.

But it is not easy to revise the statement because NY Times reports "American officials say they have urged Mr. Abe to shelve calls to revise the Kono Statement to avoid increasing tensions with South Korea". Although American government is neutral, many lawmakers endorse the Resolution 121 to blame the comfort women.

In fact Kono Statement did not apologize the military abduction of comfort women, but its ambiguous expression was interpreted as admission of guilt. We should sort out two problems. Historians' consensus is as follows:
  • Military abduction: There is no document that shows Japanese Army coerced Korean women into brothels. Some women claimed that they were abducted by Army, but they were not supported by evidences. There is only one evidence of coercion in Indonesia, which was a court-martial offense and the criminal was executed.
  • Human trafficking: There was human trafficking by private parties, as usual in the world of pre-war era. Kono Statement apologized that the Army sometimes helped the private coercion, but Japanese government refused legal resposibility for abduction.
Japanese Army was responsible for the operation of brothels because it was dangerous, but they did not abduct women from Korea. Although somebody abuse the word "abduction" as human trafficking, the Army was not responsible for the conduct of private parties.

So it is a necessary step to revise Kono Statement by removing ambiguous expression such as "in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments." This referred to the case in Indonesia, but Koreans mistook it as the admission in general.

When I covered Koreans in 1991 for NHK documentary, nobody claimed they were abducted by the Army. The wrong article of Asahi Shimbun fabricated the problem, which hurts Japanese-Korean relationship seriously. As Mr. Abe is much interested in this problem, it might be the last chance to correct the history.

Asahi Shimbun fabricated "comfort women"

All these things began with a wrong article. "Comfort women" or  "military abduction" weren't discussed before it.

The Asahi Shimbun reported in the front page on 11 January 1992 that the historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi discovered documents that proves the Army's "commitment" to comfort women in the archives of Japan's Defense Agency.


According to the article, the document indicated that the military had been involved in running the brothels, for example by selecting the agents who recruited. Takashi Uemura, Asahi's correspondent in Seoul, reported further that the comfort women had been abducted as part of "Joshi Teishintai" (women volunteer corps). But it was obviously wrong because Teishintai was the labor team in the factories of military equipment.

This article kindled the phantom scandal of "comfort women". It misled the Japanese government because it was scheduled for Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa to visit South Korea five days after the reporting. Miyazawa apologized to Korean government about the comfort women without confirming the facts. And in 1993, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono addressed a statement to apologize Japanese government's "commitment".

These problems were fabricated by the Asahi that mistook the commercial prostitution as military forced labor. And there is no evidence of "abduction" of women by the Army. Since many historians and commentators attacked the wrong reporting, the Asahi tacitly admitted the error. However, they never apologized it but insists "such minor difference doesn't matter" in the editorial.

Norimitsu Onishi, a liar

The most influential source of lies is Norimitsu Onishi, the Tokyo bureau chief of NY Times. He was born in 1969 in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, and moved to Canada when he was four. He graduated from Princeton University and joined the Times and covered Africa, Afganistan, and other foreign countries before he came to Japan in 2003.

His articles about comfort women are much distorted and biased. For example, in the article featured on the front page on March 8, he quoted the testimony of Wu Hsiu-mei and Jan Ruff O'Herne. However, Wu said that she was taken by a "Japanese officer" and talked nothing about the Army's coercion. O'Herne, a notorious seller of her tragedy, said nothing about the Army's order, too. Prostitutes can't be the witness of Army's order. Her case was judged by Dutch court which decided that Japanese Army had forbidden violent treatment of comfort women.

Onishi also visited a historian Yoshiaki Yoshimi, who is attacking Japanese government based on phony evidences. The document he alleges to be the proof is nothing but the warning from the Army to brokers not to kidnap women into brothels. Onishi doesn't even pretend to be impartial by interviewing more neutral historians such as Ikuhiko Hata. Onishi might be afraid of the "inconvinient truth" that his reporting is groundless.

Onishi's articles are laughing matter in Japan. The article about him in Wikipedia Japan lists his many wrong (often ridiculous) articles. He speaks Japanese fluently, but is ignorant of Japan. Onishi has advantage to write such racist articles because he looks like a Japanese. But some people suggests that he is a Korean-Japanese. If so, it's natural that he hates Japan that expelled his family.

He is the first NY Times correspondent who wrote so many stupid articles, which is hurting Times's reputation seriously. It's because the editors in NY headquarter are ignorant of Japan, too. Once I was amazed to see a picture of an unknown man captioned "Japanese PM Abe" in a Times's article on March 6 on the Web. When I pointed out it to the editor by e-mail, the picture was deleted without apology. I don't blame their ignorance. But it's criminal to repeat lying when so many Japanese people have pointed out they are incorrect.