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Yoichi Shimada

【#253】Approaching Japan Hands in U.S. on Comfort Women Issue

Yoichi Shimada / 2014.07.03 (Thu)

June 30, 2014

     On June 25, 122 South Koreans, including women who had worked at brothels for U.S. troops in South Korea, filed a damages suit against their government, complaining that these women had been forced to mate with U.S. troops under strict control by the South Korean government. They urged the government to apologize and fulfill legal responsibilities for the system of “comfort women” for U.S. troops.
     Although the control by the South Korean government has not been specified, the brothels might have been basically similar to comfort stations for Japanese troops before the end of World War II. If the South Koreans and Americans define comfort women for Japanese troops as "sex slaves" without describing those for U.S. troops as so, it may be clearly unreasonable.
U.S. rebuttal targets are subject to rebuttal by Japan
     Japan has faced further unreasonable, false propaganda that the country had coercively recruited 200,000 young girls as comfort women. As the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals provides its weekly Speaking Out column in English as well as in Japanese, I would like to write the following part of this column in a manner to talk to friends in the United States.
     Suppose South Korea began to claim that comfort women for U.S. troops represented a scheme led by the U.S. forces to make young girls sex slaves, and suppose American professional fiction writers provided false self-deprecating stories supporting the South Korean claim. Suppose the White House and the State Department known for their ostrich policy issued apology statements in response. As soon as the U.S. government believed the problem as having been solved, suppose South Koreans began to erect statues of comfort women for U.S. troops at parks in third countries and criticize the United States for failing to reflect on the problem. What would you do in response? A normal U.S. president then would revise the apology statements and rebut the South Korean claims.
     Why must Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government refrain from doing the same thing? If Japanese experts on the United States advise that Washington refrain from revising the apology statements, you would be irritated and angered.

A good choice is not to comment on historical issues
     Every time when famed Japan hands in the United States urge Japan not to revise then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono's 1993 statement admitting to Japanese officials' coercive recruitment of comfort women, not a few Japanese feel irritated and angered. If you, my American friends, fail to find such Japanese reaction or believe in an incredible fiction that Japanese forces' comfort women system represented an organized sexual crime that was unprecedentedly cruel and extensive, you may no longer deserve to be called Japan hands. I do not necessarily ask you to endorse Japan's claims. Instead, I request you to make no comment on historical issues between Japan and South Korea and call for talks on bilateral cooperation towards the future. That's enough.
     If you depend on a feel received from present and former senior Foreign Ministry bureaucrats for tracking Japanese trends, you may make mistakes. What should be referred to for right information about Japan? I would recommend my American friends to read the JINF Speaking Out column every week.

Yoichi Shimada is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Fukui Prefectural University.