Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tsutomu Nishioka

【#303(Special)】 Criticizing Recent Book by Ambassador Muto

Tsutomu Nishioka / 2015.06.03 (Wed)

May 29, 2015

     Masatoshi Muto, Japan's former ambassador to South Korea, has authored a book titled "Truth of Japan-South Korea Confrontation." It has attracted attention by denouncing South Korean attitude towards Japan in an unusually frank manner as a former ambassador. I respect his courageous decision to publish the book. Therefore, I would like to point to two defects in his arguments and call for constructive debate.

Muto fails to pay due heed to background for “tattle diplomacy”
     In the book, Muto criticizes the South Korean government and people for preferring their emotional conclusions to the accumulation of objective facts, and for thinking emotionally rather than intellectually. He also complains that the South Korean government has been pushed around by a private organization named Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, and that South Korean President Park Geun-hye refuses to hear opinions from others.
     The first defect of the book is that it ignores South Korean masochistic view of history behind President Park’s anti-Japan tattle diplomacy where she has defamed Japan at talks with non-Japanese foreign leaders in an apparent bid to increase international pressure on Japan. (The view that has been diffused by pro-Pyongyang forces in South Korea since the 1980s describes South Korea as an illegitimate country created by pro-Japanese people.) Since President Park is the daughter of the late President Park Chung-hee, who is viewed as representing pro-Japanese forces in South Korea, she may have no choice but to demonstrate her particularly anti-Japan attitude and emphasize that she is not pro-Japanese.
     Without pointing to this fact, Muto criticizes South Korean arguments on history in a manner to link these arguments to South Korean people’s nationality or President Park’s personal characteristics. This approach could be taken as representing racism.

Muto fails to seriously reflect on Japanese diplomacy
     While criticizing erroneous reports on the comfort women problem by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and outrageous anti-South Korea reports by evening tabloids and some other Japanese media, Muto has failed to seriously reflect on the Foreign Ministry’s diplomacy. This is the second defect of the book.
     As written by Muto, some Japanese papers including Asahi spread a fiction in January 1992, just before then Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa’s visit to South Korea, that the “women’s volunteer corps” system led Japanese officials to coercively recruit Korean women as comfort women. (The corps actually represented groups of young female workers organized on Japanese territory during the war and has been sometimes mistakenly associated with comfort women.)
     Muto was director of the Northeast Asia Division at the Foreign Ministry at the time of Miyazawa’s visit. Miyazawa apologized to then South Korean President Roh Tae-woo eight times during the visit. In February of the year, I told a senior deputy to Muto: “For what Prime Minister Miyazawa apologized? Did he admit the coercive recruitment and apologize for that? Or did he give a humanitarian apology to women who had no choice but to work as comfort women due to poverty? If the latter is true, why doesn’t he offer an apology to Japanese women who were sold to Yoshiwara and other government-licensed prostitution quarters in Japan before the end of the war?” The official said, “I will check these matters from now.” Miyazawa apologized before checking anything subject to apology.
     Instead of asserting that Japanese officials did not implement the “narrowly defined coercion” that is coercive recruitment of Koreans as comfort women, Muto proposes that Japan, while holding down the influence of the Korean Council, implement measures indicating its good faith to former South Korean comfort women (to supplement the Asian Women’s Fund that has ended its program to provide funds to former comfort women in Asia) and publicize the implementation to the international community.
     I am opposed to the proposal. What Japan should do first is to publicize to the international community the absence of military or other Japanese government officials’ coercive recruitment, while expressing regret over the fact that business operators’ human trafficking violated women’s human rights in regard to the comfort women problem. Japan is now required to make a careful rebuttal based on facts.

Tsutomu Nishioka is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Tokyo Christian University.