Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Yoichi Shimada

【#288】How to Fight History War?

Yoichi Shimada / 2015.03.05 (Thu)

March 2, 2015

     On March 1, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, in her annual address to commemorate an independence movement against Japanese rule, reiterated (for the several hundredth time) her demand for Japan to “courageously and frankly recognize historical facts” and take measures to “restore the honor” of former comfort women. Japanese people at least in my surroundings sympathize with women who became prostitutes due to their poverty, but do not despise them. Japanese have no way to “restore the honor” that Japanese have never injured. As a matter of course, Japanese have no way to “recognize” the coercive recruitment of comfort women that Japanese have never implemented.

Asahi's "Coercive recruitment propaganda in January 1992"
     As for "historical facts," the Asahi Shimbun newspaper's sensational propaganda report on January 11, 1992, internationally spread the misperception of the "coercion of young women into sexual slavery," as proven in a recent report by an independent inspection panel headed by Terumasa Nakanishi, Professor Emeritus of Kyoto University, on the Asahi Shimbun’s reporting of comfort women. The Asahi report was disguised as based on decisive evidence. Particularly in the English-speaking world, leading U.S. newspapers began to make erroneous reports quoting Asahi reports and editorials soon after the propaganda report. Earlier, they had made no reports regarding comfort women. The spread of the misperception was clearly attributable to the Asahi report. The Asahi Shimbun is gravely responsible for the spread.

Responsibilities of Foreign Ministry and politicians
     If the prime minister, chief cabinet secretary and other politicians, and the Foreign Ministry officials had retained the attitude of providing “courageously and frankly" only “historical facts,” however, Japan could have prevented a spiral spread of history distortions. To the contrary, the Miyazawa cabinet in 1992 promoted apology-based diplomacy beginning with Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa's visit to South Korea. All later cabinets, other than the first and second Abe cabinets, basically followed suit.
     The Foreign Ministry has thoroughly sustained a defeatist approach refraining from rebutting any fabrications even if they are extreme. Before the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution urging Japan to make an official apology to the comfort women in 2007, then Japanese Ambassador in Washington Ryozo Kato included only evasive rebuttals in his letters to key U.S. legislators dated February 13 and June 22, saying among others, that earlier Japanese prime ministers had already repeatedly apologized,. Kato fell short of rebutting grave misperceptions represented by the draft resolution describing the comfort women system as including "gang rape, forced abortions, humiliation, and sexual violence resulting in mutilation, death, or eventual suicide."
     In the letter dated June 22, emphasized as “urgent,” days before the House Foreign Affairs Committee's passage of the resolution, Kato emphasized that the Japanese government was not involved in the opinion ad titled THE FACTS, which was sponsored by Japanese voluntary legislators and intellectuals. He indicated the dogmatic rigidness of the Foreign Ministry's attitude of getting around historical facts.
     Such letters by the ambassador might have helped establish a perception that the Japanese government had accepted the alleged facts, weakening U.S. legislators' resistance to the resolution. On March 4, the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals will hold a monthly study meeting dealing with how to fight history-related information war. Don’t miss it!

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