Comfort Women Issue Invented: The Complete Chronicle of Asahi Shimbum’s Unprecedented False Report (minor update)
August 2014 saw the comfort women issue again highligted by Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s leading newspaper that originally reported the long-continued and one of the most controversial war crime of Japanese army. Through the series of articles published on Aug 5 and 6, Asahi Shimbun , for the first time after 32 years,retracted the original 16 reports on Seiji Yoshida, who there confessed to have forcible drafted young women in Korea, and also corrected what was claimed in the past such that women belonged to Imperial women volunteer corps (called “Joshi Teishin-tai” in Japanese).
It’s long past due but accecptable anyway, however Asahi Shimbun still stays defiant not to express any apologies and even insists some need to confront “the essential matters of comfort women issue”.
We wonder why Asahi retracted and corrected such major misinformation that had been repeated, also why they don’t even express apologies and still preach their own thoughts. We verify those of Asahi’s articles on Aug 5 and 6, then shed light on what they had concealed over 30 years concerining the series of significant false reports.
Asahi Shimbun's Erroneous Scoop "Forcible Draft under the name of Imperial women volunteer corps"
"Forcible Draft" (known as Kyosei Renko in Japanese) was firstly appeared in a publication "Chosen-jin Kyosei Renko No Kiroku" (Records of Korean forcible draft) composed by Pak, Kyŏng-sik in 1965. As Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea (known as Nikkan Kihon Joyaku in Japanese) did not mention the compensation to the conscription of private citizens, Pak was suspicious about this, then claimed there were more than one million Koreans who were drafted for labor force.
The word "Forcible draft" may sound odd as it is impossible to conduct arbitrary drafting. We have another word "conscription" as a formal term, however, Koreans were not subject to"Kokumin Chouyourei" (National Conscription Act) until the end of wartime. So that Pak (intentionally) decided to utilize the word "forcible draft" to comprise even labors widely recruited by enterprises. It is nonetheless an overestimate to mention the number with one million, the estimated total number is more or less than 320 thousands people, even including those gathered by government managed mediation.
Such male forcible labor was posed in the beginning when Japan-Korea disputes raised, lawsuits were filed for compensations against it then Korean government demanded individual compensations to Japan, however, Japanese government refused such compensations and claimed they had come to an end by Nikkan Joyaku, Japan-Korea treaty.
I was employed by NHK (Nippon Housou Kyoukai) at that time, and gathered the information of the forcible draft issue in summer, 1991. I interviewed at South Korea tens of men who used to work in Japan in wartime, and none of them mentioned that they were forcibly drafted by the military forces. In fact, local mediators supported them for their job huntings, which was advertised to gain the wage two times higher than Korean one. Then, they took part in it to find a terrible workplace environment such as coal mines, but could not manage to escape because guards were watching. Most of tales were full of such “bird cage” episodes.
"Comfort women" was nothing but an urban legend at that time. When Mr. Yoshida insisted in 1982 that hundreds of Korean women from Jeju island were forcibly drafted as comfort women, Asahi Shimbun reported this, however, it was not a big problem as he was the only one to claim such tale and there was no evidence to it.
In Aug. 1991, Kim Haksun (Kim Gakujun in Japanese pronunciation) emerged for the first time to claim that she was one of ex-comfort women and a lawyer Mizuho Fukushima came to NHK and touted her to be featured. At that point, all of that tale was about the demand for compensation for her to the past wage paid with military bills (only available for use within military facilities) which ended up with wastes of paper due to the war end. Meanwhile, Asahi Shimbun (Osaka, Morning Edt.) article said on Aug. 11th:
“In Japanese-Sino War and World War II, one of military comfort Korean women, who were drafted to the frontline under the name of women volunteer corps and prostituted for Japanese soldiers, was found to be alive in Seoul, thus "The Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan" (Teitaikyo, shortened form in Japanese) initiated interviews. The council submitted a recorded tape of women's confession to an Asahi Shimbun's writer.”
The woman in this article was anonymous, who was actually Kim Haksun. Then an Asahi Shimbun writer Takashi Uemura (Osaka HQ, social dept.) published a “world class scoop” earlier than the reports by Korean medias, which is said that it was because his mother-in-law was an executive of "Pacific War victims survivor committee" which supports the Teitaikyo council's lawsuits concerning comfort women. It is doubted that this article was also depicted in accordance with Teitaikyo’s intention.
Why was a tale of human traffic transmuted into the forcible draft?
An article, as of August. 5th this year, to examine comfort women issue states that he visited South Korea after he got a contact from the chief of Seoul branch who heard of testimonies of ex-confort woman from the Teitaikyo council, which is an as-is statement of Takashi Uemura,however it sounds odd and unnatural. A scoop should have normally required prompt actions so that it should have been reasonable that Seoul branch gathered information and released it. Why did he contact with the Social Dept., Osaka HQ?
Also, the article itself looks odd. It is mentioned that they were drafted under the name of Imperial women volunteer corps, however, the recorded tape of Kim Haksun does not tell so. For example, the article of Korean newspaper at that time said:
"As of 14 year old, I was sold for 40 yen to Kisaeng by my mother troubled with making a living. 3 years later, I finished lives as a trainee and I was moved by foster father to a Japanese force in the northern area of China which deployed 300 or more soldiers. "
This may be the same as that recorded tape, whereas she represented "she was sold to Kisaeng" in this tape. Why did Uemura cut off her tale about Kisaeng after listening to the record tape, and why did he note that she was drafted to the battlefield to forcibly prostitute for Japanese soldiers, in spite of not being described in her tale? To answer such question, the validation article explains:
"Regarding the reason why the article of August 1991 did not mention about Kisaeng, Uemura mentioned that he did not heard of what Kim described about Kisaeng school so that it was unknown and it was not intentional not to mention."
It sounds strange. Even though he was not aware of Kisaeng, why is it stated that she was drafted to the battlefield, which was not in her original testimony? Moreover, Uemura mentioned in an article of Asahi Shimbun (Osaka, Morning Edt.) in Dec.25, 1991 as Kim's testimony:
"I was born in rural area of Jilin Province, Manchuria (currently northeast area of China). Thereafter my mother and I moved to Pyongyang. We were quite poor so I quit elementary school as of 4th degree then we did baby-sitting for living. I was told by local staff that I would be able to make money if I go there. They didn't tell what the job looks like. I fell into his line with a friend of mine. That happened in spring 1939 when I was 17 years old."
However, in Dec. 1991, the process for the lawsuit "Requisition for Asia Pacific War's Korean Victim Compensation" claimed that the plaintiff Kim Haksun had attended Kisaeng school for 3 years since she was 14 years old. In spring 1939, as of 17-year old, she was induced to go there to make money and she moved to China attended by her foster father together with her colleague who is 1 year elder than her."
Although this is same as what is mentioned in the above-mentioned recorded tape, Uemura's article missed the entire part of the tale regarding Kisaeng. The lawsuit was filed before the article released, in Dec.6, 1991, and he acknowledged he read it. He nevertheless intentionally cut off the part of when she was 14 - 17 years old, and suddenly described as if she was told to go there to make money.
In addition, according to her first testimony, it was her foster father(probably Korean broker dubbed 'Zegen') who mediated to Kisaeng. Meanwhile, according to Uemura's article, it was said she was taken there by “a local staff”. This was probably intended to strike a third party with an image of her being drafted, it is suspicious to be a distortion of facts like what is indicated in the validation article.
Furthermore it is odd that "forcible draft" has not been appeared in the articles and statements of lawsuit process. However, Kim depicted in a book "Testimony: Military Comfort Women", published in 1995,
“My foster father said it is good chance to make money if you get Beijing, then took us to Beijing. When we arrived in Beijing, we took lunch and went out of the canteen, a Japanese soldier stopped my foster father. Sister and I were drafted by another soldier.”
Here the word "Draft" appears for the first time. It is assumed she accordingly changed her testimony because Asahi Shimbun used the word "forcible draft". Kim's testimony changed back and forth several times in the court as well, the word "forcible draft" has been found in 1992 and later.
When Ms. Fukushima came to NHK for the first time, she mentioned an ex-comfort woman demanded compensation for wage. If that's all demanded, it should have ended up with dismissal at court. However, because Asahi Shimbun released the erroneous report, it is assumed she and the lawyer Kenich Takagi thought to take advantage of it. It is assumed that they thought to swindle money by additionally claiming forcible draft as It was obvious a simple compensation issue for wartime affairs could be rejected in accordance with leading cases.
As seen above, the forcible draft, which was Uemura's overshoot in the beginning, was incorporated in the lawsuit, Asahi Shimbun reported it as "Ex-comfort woman's struggle to reveal Japan's state crime", then as a result of their collaboration, the comfort women issue was eventually escalated from a lawsuit against unpaid wage to a major problem to blame Japanese troops' wartime violence.
Ex-comfort women teamed up with them to lie to support the forcible draft which was a mere erroneous report in the beginning, then wrong testimonies that they were drafted were exposed in response to interviews by UN and foreign medias. By following this, a single lie spreads another, then the issue underwent undesirable situation.
Forcible Draft is not a misinformation but a fabrication.
Regarding the discrepancy between Uemura's article and Kim's testimony, Asahi Shimbun's article for validating comfort women issue (quoted as "validation article" below) explains as follows:
"Uemura explained he thought it was not inevitable to become a comfort woman because she is in Kisaeng. He also mentioned Kim said she was conned and became a comfort woman, he wrote an article as of August."
It is obvious that he did not notice his own contradiction. He acknowledged in this statement that Kim became a Kisaeng woman. Being conned to become a comfort woman is totally different from being forcible drafted, the con was a matter of her foster father, which has nothing to do with matters of state. He intentionally twisted the tale of selling-out into the forcible draft.
In prewar in Japan, it was not so rare for girls in poverty to being sold to owe parents' debt. There might be such cases as Korea was generally poorer than Japan. Although at that time human traffic was illegal, in most cases, it was a contract for a decade of apprentices whose wage was paid for debts and the time due expired to let them go free.
Although this can be a sort of 'enforcement' as they were restrained until time due expires, the subject is a private citizen. As human traffic was illegal at that time, it was not possible that either or police or military mediates human traffic. When Kim went to the comfort station, she was taken by her foster father, which means the military and any other authorities were not involved.
The fact of Kim being a Kisaeng woman indicates she was not forcibly drafted by authorities. However, a simple case of selling-out was inconvenient for Uemura who intended to reveal a state crime, thus it is assumed he got rid of the part of her tale regarding Kisaeng and twisted it into a tale of the forcible draft.
As seen above, the validation article implicitly admitted Uemura concealed the fact of selling-out, however it is stated in its end that Uemura's article does not include intentional distortions to the facts. However, it is not a misinformation/false report to twist a selling-out into the forcible draft, it can be a fabrication (intentional fiction), otherwise it can be a distortion (intentional distortion).
Unlike a simple misinformation/false report, a fabrication and distortion deserves a disciplinary action. In August 2005, regarding Nagano prefecture's mayor Yasuo Tanaka's inauguration of a new political party, Asahi Shimbun punitively dismissed a writer in Nagano branch because he released an article based on the information not gathered through actual interviews and described as if it was really interviewed, also the chief editor in Tokyo HQ, Tadakazu Kimura, who is current President of Asahi Shimbun, was forced out. Thus it can be assumed the validation article insists on that it was an misinformation, not an fabrication because it may be a President Kimura's intent.
In addition, Uemura wrote an article in Jan. 11th of the next year, whose title was "A document to indicate military commitment to comfort station", to explain "military comfort women" were forcibly drafted under the name of Korean women volunteer corps, then right after that, Kiichi Miyazawa, Prime Minister, apologized to South Korean government, so that Japan-Korea relationship fell into chaos. At that time, as he is aware of the tale of selling-out in the process of that lawsuit, this was not a misinformation/false report, rather was a disinformation.
Although the validation article excused that the article (of Uemura) was published 5 days after the writer (Uemura) got aware of details so that it is not true that Asahi posted the article intentionally at the timing of Prime Minister Miyazawa's visit to South Korea,no one believes such selective coincident. The military's statement at the top page had been well-known for many of researchers, thus it can be assumed the article was written up with hassle to get it right in time prior to Miyazawa's visit to South Korea.
No foricible draft to comfort women was operated.
The women volunteer corps, which the validation article admitted Asahi Shimbun erroneously quoted, was a system to mobilize women to munition plants or the like and there was no such system in Korea, so is obviously a wrong perception to facts. Asahi Shimbun said it was a confusion caused by lacking sufficient study, however, it can be a common sense anybody can see with a quick check, there's no need to deeply investigate it. It is assumed to describe the as-is position of Teitaikyo that Uemura's mother-in-law supports.
For Asahi Shimbun, who retracted Yoshida's testimony and women volunteer corps, its remaining lifeline is 'forcible draft'. As seen above, this word means a conscription, and there was no system to conscript Korean women, therefore forcibly drafting comfort women is impossible. Asahi Shimbun, now is on the ropes, said 'forcible draft' can be defined in diverse meanings depending on researchers.
"Definition of forcible draft to comfort women has been controversial among researchers: As an example, Kunihiko Hata says it was comfort woman hunting or abduction led by authorities, meanwhile Yoshiaki Yoshimi says it includes the case where a dealer or broker certified by military or administrative authorities kidnapped/abducted them."
There's no such controversy. Yoshimi has often expressed that there's no official publication to confirm a forcible draft such as slavery hunting operated by authorities so far (quote from Chosen Jihou, Feb.27, 1997.). What he claims is a broad meaning of "enforceability" which is defined as follows:
"If a woman is allowed to choose an occupation like a labor, specialist or a business owner, she would not select one to be a comfort woman. Even though she appears to voluntarily choose it, it is a result of any kind of enforcement caused by either colonization, poverty, unemployment or else."
As far as we follow this definition, it turns out all of comfort women were “enforced” because all prostitutes in colonies including those who voluntarily (not forcibly) select to be are the results of a sort of enforcement. This is a tautology like what anyone unfamiliar with the word’s definition can even explain so. Anyway, as Yoshimi admitted there's no forcible draft in the past colonies, thus there cannot be disputes.
The validation article also concludes that there's no official publication to indicate forcible draft operated by the military under Japanese colonization in Korea and Taiwan where people were assumed to belong to the Empire of Japan, and depicts that Asahi Shimbun has managed not to use the word "forcible draft" as much as possible in 1993 and later. At least, as opinions of researchers and Asahi Shimbun are conformed, Asahi Shimbun should retract the "forcible draft" as well.
By the way, the validation article depicts that a document was found that indicates the military dragged local women against their will in Indonesia which was occupied by Japanese troops. This is assumed to refer to so-called Semarang Comfort Women Incident, which has nothing to do with the misinformation/false report regarding forcible draft against Koreans.
In south-eastern Asia, there was no conscription system, so that it was impossible to have forcible draft. Semarang Comfort Women Incident was a case of breach of military disciplines by one of subordinate soldiers and his chief was sentenced to a war criminal, which indicates that Japanese troops did not direct forcibly draft.
What matters about comfort women issue is the problem of Asahi Shimbun.
As seen above, the article, reported in 1991 that Kim Haksun was forcibly drafted under the name of women volunteer corps, has been found to be misinformation/false report. In the earlier time, the issue was nothing but a simple matter enough to be resolved by a single article for correction. Who to be blamed for making such a federal case is executives of Asahi Shimbun who have never admitted the misinformation/false report for over 20 years and have kept sidestepping it. In this verification article on the front page in August 5th, Nobuyuki Sugiura, Executive Director/Chief Content Officer, describes as follows:
"During the wartime, it can't be dismissed that there were women enforced to work with Japanese soldiers for living. They were restrained as comfort women and it matters that their dignity as women was severely injured."
This is a typical excuse that Asahi Shinbum has been addressing. Until now, whenever they were criticized the forcible draft is misinformation/false report, they responded with deceptions such that it is a side issue and it's not the essential matter, however, it seems they've found they no longer keep fending off criticism with such a deceptive answer. Asahi Shimbun's decline of circulation is in serious state, and it is assumed they intend to spike the comfort women issue which partly causes the decline.
However, this article does not address the right problem. It seems to address that it blames the military commitment, however, there's no one to deny all the military commitment. The battlefield is too risky to do any commercial activity without military commitment. In the battlefield, even Kiosk, barbers and all others operated with some military commitment.
Re-examining Kono statement announced in 1993 is not to re-examine the "commitment", only intended to correct ambiguous expressions which can be even interpreted as government's forcible draft, to say. “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.”
At that time other medias similarly did, some of them reported that the government admitted forcible draft. However, Yoshida admitted his lie and there's no evidence found, so that other medias refrained from reporting this issue in the later of 1990s. If Asahi Shimbun did not even correct the misinformation/false report but run away from it, no one would have never remembered the comfort women issue today.
However, Asahi Shimbun, based on the ambiguous 'enforceability', continued to demand the government of apologies and compensations to Korea. In 1997, although they acknowledged that it can't be confirmed if Yoshida's tale is true or false, they did not correct the past misinformation/false report. In the meantime, UN and foreign medias started addressing the comfort women issue and initiated campaigns to blame "sex slavery" in 2000s.
Asahi Shimbun's charges were twisted and widely spread like playing Chinese whispers. Then, the focused issue turned to a tale of whether or not comfort women existed, another tale was spread in the world to say “Japanese government denies the existence of miserable sex slaves.”
However, Asahi Shimbun had seldom reported the comfort women issue since then, because they knew it was false. They might think Korea can forget it sooner or later as it's not a major issue, however it never went as they expected, and Korean government pushily and intensively demanded for Japanese government to admit the forcible draft, then the issue started influencing the entire of Japan - Korea relationship.
As a conclusion, the comfort women issue, comfort women were forcibly drafted as sex slaves, is not really existent. Comfort women were nothing but prostitutes administered by the military in the battlefield. Comfort women issue is a problem of Asahi Shimbun invented by twisting a pile of lies. It is immense that they yielded vicious spirals of hatreds between Japan and Korean and seriously confused diplomatic affairs.
The article also states that they were concerned about looking away from the unpleasant past and widely spread tone of domestic arguments to urge conflicts. The one to look away from unpleasant past is Asahi Shimbun itself.
Uemura, who composed that major misinformation/false report, left Asahi Shimbun this March (2014), so that we should summon him and Ms. Fukushima to conduct factual investigation. However, who to be blamed is the management of Asahi Shimbun that have been dodging even after the misinformation/false report revealed. In principle, it is desirable a media itself should uncover everything in its independent committee, however it seems Asahi Shimbun is not willing to do, so that the Diet should do that.