Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Fumio Ota

【#417】NYT Still Biased about Comfort Women

Fumio Ota / 2017.01.18 (Wed)

January 16, 2017

     The New York Times on January 6 carried an editorial titled “No Closure on the ‘Comfort Women.’” The editorial takes a stance that both Japan and South Korea are responsible for failing to put an end to the comfort women issue, swallowing South Korea’s propaganda deviating from facts and evidence.

Ignoring facts and evidence
     The editorial introduces “a deep sense among Koreans” that ”Japan has never fully repented for the sex slavery forced on tens of thousands of Korean and other Asian women under Japanese occupation.” However, this has double errors.
     The first error is alleging comfort women as sex slaves without any doubt. The only Allied Forces report on comfort women during World War II (APO689 from Burma on October 1, 1944) described Korean comfort women as living “near-luxury,” getting income about 50 times as much as then rank-and-file soldiers. They were also allowed to return home after repaying debt, to get married with soldiers they liked and to reject drunken soldiers. Thus report proved that Korean comfort women were far different from sex slaves. It is illogical to assert that comfort women in Burma were luxury prostitutes while those in other areas were sex slaves.
     Secondly, the editorial exaggerates the number of Korean comfort women. Many inscriptions beside comfort woman statues in South Korea and the United States give the total number of comfort women as 200,000 based on a mistake confusing comfort women with women’s volunteer corps. Ikuhiko Hata, Ph.D., a reliable expert on modern Japanese history, has estimated the total number of comfort women at 10,000 to 20,000 of which Koreans accounted for about 20%, or 2,000 to 4,000. In a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in March 2015, Hata said if the number of comfort women was 200,000 for one million Japanese army soldiers sent overseas, these soldiers might have had no time to fight.

Lashing out against defense minister’s visit to shrine
     The New York Times editorial also says “the Koreans can also argue that the recent visit by Japan’s defense minister, Tomomi Inada, to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where a number of convicted war criminals are commemorated, is evidence that the Japanese do not fully acknowledge the crimes of their militarist past.” However, the installation of a comfort woman statue outside the Japanese Consulate in Busan, for which preparations should have taken several months, came on December 28 just before Inada visited the shrine on December 29. South Koreans might be using the Yasukuni visit as pretext for justifying the installation of the statue.
     The editorial notes only that Japan promised 1 billion yen to care for surviving former comfort women in an agreement with South Korea in December 2015. In fact, however, Japan already paid the sum in August 2016, with a majority of surviving former comfort women having received funds. The editorial falls short of specifying this fact. It also did not note that the installation of comfort woman statues in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul and the Japanese Consulate in Busan violates the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations and Consular Relations calling for preventing the impairment of diplomatic missions’ dignity.
     In this way The New York Times editorial still unfairly supports South Korea over the comfort women issue.

Fumio Ota is a JINF Planning Committee Member and retired Vice Admiral of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.