LDP faction wants to deny forcing of comfort women

I don’t normally like to just cut and paste news articles (translation is of course a different story) because it’s just a lame way to blog without having any ideas, but The Yomiuri does not keep their stories accessible online for an indefinite period, and this one from today’s edition is a critical followup to my little essay of two days ago. Ask yourself, what would these men consider “conclusive evidence”? About a month ago I attended a lecture at which three old women from Taiwan came to speak about their experiences as sex slaves to the Japanese army, which I personally found extremely convincing. (I have been meaning to write a long blog entry about that lecture, so someone people remind me to do so.)

LDP split over ‘comfort women’ / Lawmakers plan to seek revision of 1993 statement on culpability

Friction is emerging within the Liberal Democratic Party over the issue of so-called comfort women who purportedly were forced to provide sexual services for Japanese soldiers on the Korean Peninsula and other parts of Asia during World War II.

A voluntary group set up by LDP lawmakers to study what should be taught in schools on the subject of national history held a subpanel meeting Friday to discuss the comfort women issue for the first time.

The group plans to request the government to revise the 1993 statement that left the impression the government officially acknowledged that the Imperial Japanese Army forcibly recruited women.

Some other LDP lawmakers, meanwhile, have expressed concern over the move and speculate that the study group might be serving to represent the real view of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had been critical of the 1993 government statement before becoming prime minister, but has officially upheld the statement since assuming his post in September.

At the subpanel meeting of the study group, lawmakers pointed out flaws in the government statement issued by the chief cabinet secretary at the time, Yohei Kono.

Kono’s statement expressed “sincere apologies and remorse” to former comfort women, with an apparent acknowledgement that the army and government officials recruited women by force, despite the fact that conclusive evidence has never been discovered.

“I’ve heard that a recruiting poster for comfort women has been discovered. I think we should obtain a copy and examine it to prove that there wasn’t any forced recruitment,” one member of the study group said at the meeting.

About 15 lawmakers, including former Education, Science and Technology Minister Nariaki Nakayama, who heads the study group, and former Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Mineichi Iwanaga, attended the meeting.

The subpanel plans to examine the issue with the help of experts and to submit a request to the government in spring, calling for a review on the Kono statement.

The study group has been inactive for the past year because core members of the group were expelled from the party in August 2005 for opposing the postal privatization bills, but the group resumed activities after Abe became prime minister.

Abe was one of the junior lawmakers who founded a group of Diet members in 1997 that was the predecessor of the study group.

Members of the study group predict that another Japan bashing campaign is likely to erupt in 2007 overseas because the year marks the 70th anniversary of the Nanjing massacre during the Sino-Japanese war.

“We need to be prepared to firmly account for Japan’s stance in such an event,” a member said.

Members of the study group include Hakubun Shimomura, a deputy chief cabinet secretary, and Eriko Yamatani, an assistant to the prime minister.

Shimomura had met with Nakayama at the Prime Minister’s Office several times this month prior to the meeting.

The study group also has Shoichi Nakagawa, the LDP Policy Research Council chairman, as its advisor.

The recent move by the study group has alarmed other LDP lawmakers who advocate improving bilateral relations with China and South Korea.

Former LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato said, “The activities of the study group won’t necessarily give a good impression to other Asian countries.”

“People might think that the group is acting on behalf of the Prime Minister’s Office,” he said.

Kato, as the head of another group of politicians that study diplomacy and security affairs of Asia, met with his policy allies, Ichiro Aisawa and former Education Minister Tadamori Oshima, Thursday night, to confirm their intentions to work in close cooperation on this matter.
(Dec. 24, 2006)

10 thoughts on “LDP faction wants to deny forcing of comfort women”

  1. Hey, write a blog entry about what those three Taiwanese women said. Just a reminder. 😉 I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in looking forward to that one.

    You hit the nail on the head and asked the question that puzzles me most: What is concrete proof? What is the standard of evidence necessary?

  2. I expect some sort of documentation or photographic evidence would be in order. The only photographic ‘proof’ I know of is the photo of soldiers forcing ‘comfort women’ across a bridge in Iris Chang’s ‘The Rape of Nanking’, which turned out to be fake. The right-wing in Japan doesn’t consider testimony on the part of the alleged victims to be robust enough, for obvious reasons, and the first time the term ‘comfort women’ seems to have been used is 1956, when Japanese detained war criminals in China signed documents confessing to a host of crimes including having forced sex with these women. This was after a long period of ‘re-education’ at the hands of the CCP. I’m open to the notion that forced prostitution did occur during the war, but like the GOJ, I’d have to see something a bit more convincing before I could say for sure.

  3. There’s been testimony from Korea, testimony by Dutch women, testimony by Japanese women who (more or less voluntarily, as they were professional prostitutes before) served in military brothels, military records with widely recognized euphemisms (and Japanese officials destroyed massive quantities of military records, so the lack of clearer documentation can’t be held in their favor).

    The “doubt” of politicians in Japan is a very convenient skepticism.

  4. Could you please point me in the direction of these military records with widely recognised eupemisms, Jonathan.

  5. How come it is only the Japanese women who were ‘more or less voluntarily ,as they were professional prositutes before’ Jonathan?

  6. And ‘Japanese officials destroyed massive quantities of military records, so the lack of clearer documentation can’t be held in their favor’ thing?It could apply to say ,Ishii Unit.But I highly doubt comfort station was considered as any military secret at the time nor they would be thought about being convicted as a war criminal.Perhaps the Dutch were exception and actually considered as problem by military at the time though.

    ‘The “doubt” of politicians in Japan is a very convenient skepticism.’
    You mean the very same politician whose been not just marching into Yasukuni but
    apologizing to eveyone over and over again?

  7. Does anyone deny that some of the comfort women just did it as a job? It sounds to me like recruiters first hired women who were already prostitutes, and then when they needed more they started hiring girls for “waitress” jobs and so on. And then in some areas at some times, there may also have been physical force involved. It’s the exact same trick that traffickers use today to get girls from very poor areas to go work in the big city. Tell the girls they will be working a respectable job, and then trap them.

    The big question in the comfort women issue is how high up the knowledge went, and how specifically. Some people claim that the civilian recruiters tricked the girls, but the military didn’t know about it. Unfortunately, even if you fully believe the testimony of the former comfort women (and I do not think they are lying), they don’t know the answers to these questions. How would they know what conversation the military had with the sub-contractor recruiters. or how high up the chain of command discussions went?

    Here is a good paper about this, by a history professor at Kyodai. It’s in Japanese, so apologies to readers who can’t read it.

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