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bad neighbors
Japan: There Never Were Any "Comfort Women"

A government-appointed council of scholars will review Japan’s famous apology to the women its army forced to work as sex slaves during World War II, officials said Friday. The Kono Statement was made in 1993 and was the first time Tokyo officially acknowledged that the armed forces were at least indirectly responsible for conscripting women in South Korea, China, and other countries Japan invaded during the war years into brothels.

Recently, Japanese officials and parliamentarians have remarked that maybe the apology shouldn’t have been made—that so-called comfort women were just common prostitutes, or that the practice of encouraging women to satisfy the needs of soldiers was widespread among other armies at the time, or that the Imperial army wasn’t really responsible for setting up the brothels. Now, it seems, the government will officially investigate whether the comfort women apology ought to be rescinded.

The announcement came from Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, who said “a team of scholars would be formed to examine what historical evidence had been used in compiling the apology, known as the Kono Statement,” as Martin Fackler reports for the New York Times. Many right-wing nationalists in Japan say the evidence supporting the comfort women’s ordeal is insufficient. “A former official who helped draft the statement was called in to testify that the main evidence [for the apology] was the testimony of 16 former ‘comfort women’ and that no documents were found to collaborate their stories,” Fackler continues.

The comfort women issue and other insensitive comments Japanese officials have made about atrocities committed by their countrymen in the past have poisoned Japan’s relations with its neighbors. The South Korean president refuses to meet privately with Shinzo Abe until he offers conciliatory statements to former South Korean comfort women. “A thousand years will pass and the guilt of Japanese militarism will not be erased,” reads an editorial at China’s official Xinhua News Agency. “If Japan continues to turn a deaf ear to the call of peace and warning bells against its militarist past, it will have no place in the world.” The Chinese government officially announced Thursday that it would create two new national holidays: one to celebrate the country’s victory over Japan in World War II, and the other to commemorate the Nanjing Massacre, which a Japanese media executive and friend of Abe’s recently said never happened.

The disagreement over comfort women extends, strangely enough, all the way to Glendale, California, where a statue dedicated to comfort women has sparked an international debate. Three hundred Japanese lawmakers signed a petition to Glendale asking that the statue be destroyed. They say it spreads “false propaganda” and leads to “racial discrimination,” in the words of a representative of the Japan Coalition of Legislators Against Fabricated History.

This and other efforts by Japan to reassess the accepted accounts of atrocities committed during World War II have led to a more tense relationship with the United States, not to mention Japan’s neighbors. U.S. leaders have said they are “disappointed” with the actions of certain Japanese officials, and that some comments they’ve made are “preposterous.” “The United States wants Japan to be a more respected and more effective contributor to regional security, and to play a larger role in the region. And all that this historical revisionism does is undermine that,” the head of a Pacific Ocean-focused think tank told Time magazine.

Indeed, Abe himself wants the global media to focus more on how Japan has contributed to world peace in the decades since World War II than on past atrocities the country may (or may not!) have committed. As he told Parliament on Thursday, certain countries are trying hard to slime Japan. “There’s propaganda to depict Japan in a way that’s far from the truth. There is danger emerging, where such propaganda will have a huge influence on our children’s generation. I would like to think of a strong public relations strategy going forward.”

If Abe wants a public relations strategy that will improve Japan’s standing in the eyes of its neighbors and allies, and the world, an effort to review the landmark apology to the women that the Japanese Imperial army forced into sex slavery is, to say the least, wide of the mark.

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  • Honk

    Why do people like Abe? His “Abecomomics” is Keynesian bunk, and he is a warmongering revisionist.

    • Jim__L

      He’s a saber-rattling revisionist, but he’s their saber-rattling revisionist. ‘Nuff said.

      • Honk

        Doesn’t matter. It happened. Japan must admit this, and South Carolina must admit hey once owned slaves. Does not mean they must make it the center of their lives, but covering up the truth is inaccessible.

        • Kavanna

          Even what’s left of the racist fringe in the US doesn’t deny the facts of slavery.

          The reality is that, unlike Germany, Japan was never forced — as a society — to face what their military did in the 1930s and 40s.

          • B-Sabre

            “The reality is that, unlike Germany, Japan was never forced — as a society — to face what their military did in the 1930s and 40s.”

            Really. Japan seems to believe that they were just minding their own business when the US came along and nuked two of their cities. And all those Chinese just threw themselves on Japanese bayonets.

      • Joezifu

        If they think they are strong enough to disclaim all the facts then they should accept it as generations before him and not rewrite history. Partly because he will never get away with it. Japan is becoming a smaller part of the world with each paying year.

  • rheddles

    Doesn’t MacArthur have any descendants in the Army who can go to Tokyo and read them the Riot Act?

  • Joseph Blieu

    Yes, blaming current innocent Japanese citizens for the
    crimes of their parents would be like blaming citizens of a country for the
    practice of despicable chattel slavery committed by a small minority of
    agriculture operators done 150 years ago. This descendant of Scots Irish
    immigrants of the 1890’s is considered guilty of committing slavery.

    • B-Sabre

      It’s not that they’re being blamed, it’s that they’re denying it even happened. Outside a lunatic fringe, there’s nobody in the US who would deny that slavery happened or its extent.

      You’re example cited would seem to directly contradict your point – Germany has paid for its sins, and done concrete things to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. To the point of outlawing Holocaust denial (which I have a problem with at least in absolutist free-speech terms) and the banning of Nazi organizations and symbols. That never happened in Japan.

      • Kavanna

        Exactly. The Japanese today are not responsible for what the Japanese militarists of seventy or eighty years ago did. It’s the denial of the historical fact of it that’s the problem. As for slavery in the US, both the facts and the responsibility for it were widely acknowledged — ahem — at the time.

      • Tim Godfrey

        The revisionist narrative goes like this:

        1) The Japanese Army recruited women to serve in brothels by paying money to their families. Therefore, they were volunteers as far as the Japanese Army was concerned. If you want to lay blame the blame lies with with families that took the money.

        2) The brothels were cleaner and safer places than the typical brothels at the time. Therefore the Japanese Army was making life better for the women that worked as prostitutes.

        The revisionist narrative does not claim that brothels did not exist.

        It just tries to argue that the people in the brothels were there of their own free will which is clearly false by today’s standards

        But to be honest: is there really a huge difference between forcing a girl to marry a man of the parent’s choosing and selling her into prostitution? The former was a widely accepted practice in Asia at the time.

        I am not trying to say the revisionists are right – just that there is a difference between denying an event happened and arguing about the motivations of people involved in the event.

  • hasselblady

    I am a Japanese living in Los Angeles. I always have been sympathetic toward those old Korean women who were called comfort women, felt ashamed that my own country has done such a horrific savagery, and became angry when the Japanese government denied that it even happened………..until recently.

    I have children who go to a Japanese preschool, named MK Labo, in Lomita, CA. Recently, I heard a rumor from other parents that the massage parlor right next door, called ZEN Day Spa, in the same strip mall is operating illegal sex service/prostitution. I heard that they refuse female customers and accept only male customers although the sign says for Men and Women. As a concerned parent, I went there posing as a customer and confirmed that it was indeed a store front prostitution business. I was offered to choose from various sex services by a woman who wore tight short dress. What surprised and upset me most was that I could hear children playing on the other side of the wall. I could not believe this was happening just a few feet away from my children.

    I called Sheriff station in Lomita and told an investigator about my experience. He told me that he knew the problem and the department once arrested a masseuse, but all they did was to issue a ticket, and they were back in business right after. I also told this problem to the school and the city hall but all I heard was the same story.

    I see men keep going in and out of the massage parlor as usual. It is unbelievable that no one could do anything when everyone is aware that there’s illegal prostitution activity going on right next to a school where children are taught.

    I started looking and see how bad this problem is. According to the sheriff department, over 90% of massage parlors in Lomita provide sex and most of them are owned by Koreans. There are plenty of evidences of the problem of Korean prostitution and human trafficking that you can see on the Internet.
    For example:

    I now see prostitution is so prevalent in Korea, and I started to think that maybe what the Japanese government was saying may be true after all that those comfort women were simply prostitutes, not victims.

    But I am not here to discuss about history or social issues. I am just a simple human being trying to raise my children as best as I can. And it really upsets me that a Korean woman is operating prostitution right next door to my children’s school.

    If you doubt, please go to Zen Day Spa and see for yourself. Its address is 2383 Lomita Blvd. Unit 106, Lomita, CA 90717, or see this link below.

    And if you are Korean and are proud of being one, and think this is not right, please call the owner and tell her she should be ashamed and stop running a brothel right next to a school. Telephone number is 310-326-8146.

    If you do not care about what is happening now in our neighborhood and do nothing, you have no right to complain and demand apology for what has happened 70 years ago.

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