Japanese historian says the government and the media are evading the fact that "comfort women" were sex slaves

Historians in the News
tags: Japan, sex slaves, WW II

Following is an excerpt from an interview with Professor Yoshimi Yoshiaki , the person who discovered the official documents revealing the Japanese Imperial Army’s inextricable involvement in the “comfort women.” He is an historian at Chūō University. His book Comfort Women was published in Japanese in 1995. He was interviewed by Shūkan Kin’yōbi. The translation was by Yuki Miyamoto. The introduction was written by Satoko Oka Norimatsu.

Yoshimi Yoshiaki, a leading historian of the Japanese military sex slavery system, stresses three points in an interview held in late October of 2014, as part of the Japanese weekly Shūkan Kin’yōbi’s series of articles to counter-argue the prevailing trend in the Japanese mainstream media that inclined towards denying the history of the sex slavery itself, based on Asahi Newspaper’s correction of one of the witnesses Yoshida Seiji’s accounts in related articles published in early 1990’s. One, Yoshimi reasserts that Yoshida’s false accounts were not used at all in the making of Kono Statement, the Japanese government’s 1993 apology for and recognition of the Japanese military’s involvement in the sex slavery system. Two, the Japanese military was the main culprit in the crimes of mobilizing and confining women for forced sexual servitude. Three, the system was without a doubt one of sex slavery, as it deprived those women of the four kinds of basic freedom. The third point merits particular attention in light of the Yomiuri Newspaper’s November 28 announcement of retraction and “apology” for its use of the term “sex slave” in its earlier English-language reports. With the “apology,” Japan’s largest newspaper officially declared to the world that the women who were repeatedly raped by Japanese military members under the direct control of the military were not sex slaves. Japan’s public broadcaster NHK has also been known, according to the October 17 report of The Times, to have issued a set of directives called the “Orange Book” including one that instructed English-language reporters not to use the terms “sex slaves” and “be forced to.” Those moves, reinforcing the claims of the Abe administration, are precisely the kind of historical falsifications that Yoshimi fears may damage Japan’s international reputation. 

Excerpt from the Interview

Yoshimi: Yoshida’s testimony and the Kono Statement are unrelated. As early as 1993 at the latest, no one took seriously Yoshida’s testimony claiming that he had witnessed the Japanese Army’s forcible relocation of women in Jeju Island. The Kono Statement was not based on Yoshida’s testimony. Nor do scholars researching the comfort women issue draw on it for their argument. In short, Asahi’s retraction of Yoshida’s testimony due to its falsity should not affect the discussion. Nevertheless, based upon Asahi’s retraction, some label the comfort women issue a fabrication, and even deny the existence of comfort women themselves. I find this highly imprudent, though I fear that such assertions now prevail.

SK: Yet others criticize the Asahi Shimbun, because of its article based upon Yoshida’s testimony, for misinforming the world and therefore disparaging Japan.

Yoshimi: That is also untrue. The comfort women became known abroad because Kim Hak-soon a former comfort woman, came forward as a victim. I doubt that Yoshida’s testimony, made prior to Kim’s public appearance, was widely known. A journalist from the New York Times, who visited me when researching the issue, was unaware of Yoshida’s testimony. All things considered, what was crucial was that a victim identified herself in public. What is a lie is the very assertion that Yoshida’s testimony spread a false story throughout the world.

SK: Aren’t we losing the trust of neighboring countries because of the Asahi bashing?

Yoshimi: Not just our neighbors, but the international community. From the beginning, Prime Minister Abe has narrowly defined this problem as whether or not “the Japanese Army and Authorities forcibly relocated (abducted) women by the use of violence or threat.”

SK: Abe’s point is “enforcement in a narrow sense,” isn’t it? That is to say, the problem is reduced to whether or not the Army and Authorities directly abducted women. Now that the Asahi has retracted its statements based on Yoshida’s testimony, the prime minister insinuates that no abduction occurred.

Yoshimi: Such an argument will invite more questions, logically—whether it is acceptable if women were kidnapped by deception or cajolement [rather than direct force or threat]. Or is it tolerable if it were human trafficking [involving cash payments]? The prime minister’s argument cannot address these questions. Even [historian] Hata Ikuhiko and right wingers have admitted that women were taken from the Korean Peninsula through kidnapping and human trafficking.

Kidnapping, human trafficking, and transporting victims beyond national borders were criminal acts at the time as well. When women were brought to a comfort station (Ianjo), the Army must have recognized its criminality as they examined women who were going into the station. What the Army should have done was to release those women and return them to their homeland, as they were obviously victims of illegal acts.

SK: Of course.

Yoshimi: Also, it was the Army that selected the traffickers who recruited the women. The Army should have arrested those traffickers who broke the law, and prosecuted them. Yet, none of them was pursued. The relationship between the Army and the traffickers indicates the Army’s culpability—it was an accomplice to abduction or human trafficking to transport the victims abroad.

Furthermore, none of these problems would have occurred if the Army had not established the comfort stations in the first place. The Army is, thus, the primary culprit while the traffickers are merely accomplices. There is no evidence indicating that the traffickers abducted women on their own independent of the Army....

Read entire article at Asia-Pacific Journal

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