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【#247】Japan’s Ambiguous Attitude Caused Comfort Women Problem

Koichi Mera / 2014.05.22 (Thu)

May 19, 2014

     Chinese joined South Koreans to take advantage of the so-called comfort women problem that has been used as a weapon to defame Japan in such countries as the United States, Canada and Australia. It may be right to view Chinese as leading South Korean groups in anti-Japan campaigns. I am one of the plaintiffs who launched a suit in February seeking to remove a comfort woman statue in Glendale, California. Based on my experience with the suit, I am greatly dissatisfied with the Japanese government's behavior involving the comfort women problem.

Chinese organization engaged in law suit
     On February 20, the Global Alliance for Historical Truth that I represent filed the suit with U.S. District Court in Los Angeles asking Glendale to remove the comfort woman statue, complaining that the municipality impinged on the federal government's diplomatic authorities in violation of the U.S. Constitution by permitting the statue to be installed.
     In April, however, Mayer Brown, a major U.S. law firm providing us with lawyers, unexpectedly withdrew from the suit. The reason for the withdrawal was that the law firm feared it could lose customers including major Silicon Valley companies if it continued to support the suit after the U.S. business magazine Forbes criticized the suit. We were forced to replace our law firm.
     An organization of Chinese-Americans intervened in the suit. The California-based Global Alliance for Preserving the History of WW II in Asia submitted to the court a written opinion that the Japanese government has admitted its responsibility for the comfort women problem. This organization is suspected of having pressured Mayer Brown into withdrawing from the suit.

Japanese government’s “apology-first” policy
     Japan has plunged into an exclusively defensive position in dealing with the comfort women problem due to the government's ambiguous attitude and peace-at-any-price principle. Seiji Yoshida, who engaged in labor procurement in Yamaguchi Prefecture during World War II, authored a book in 1983, leading to a belief in Japan and South Korea that comfort women were coercively recruited in a slave-hunting manner. Then, a then Japanese prime minister offered an apology to South Korea, without investigating details.
     The Japanese government later investigated relevant materials more carefully but failed to find any evidence that Japanese administrative/military personnel coercively recruited comfort women. Nevertheless, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993 issued a statement that could be interpreted as indicating the government's admission of organized coercive recruitment. The government since then has had many opportunities to correct the statement, while then prime or foreign ministers have hesitated to take any such opportunity. As a result, the problem has expanded and deepened.
     The Japanese government's peace-at-any-price principle has allowed South Korea to spread its concept of comfort women in the entire English-speaking world, imposing serious impacts on our suit.
     The comfort women problem is attributable primarily to the Kono statement. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his administration should thoroughly verify facts and publish correct information without being swayed by foreign ulterior motives. Unless the government does so, Japanese will remain disgraced for centuries and our descendants will blame the disgrace on their antecedents.

Koichi Mera is President of the Global Alliance for Historical Truth and former Professor at Marshall School of Business of the University of Southern California.