Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

  • HOME
  • Speaking Out
  • 【#468】UNESCO’s Raison D’etre Called into Question over Comfort Women Issue
Shiro Takahashi

【#468】UNESCO’s Raison D’etre Called into Question over Comfort Women Issue

Shiro Takahashi / 2017.09.21 (Thu)

September 19, 2017

     The UNESCO International Advisory Committee might have been recommended by the Register Subcommittee to accept the inscription of a set of documents titled “Voices of the ‘Comfort Women’” for the wartime Japanese Imperial Army on the Memory of the World Register as nominated jointly by private organizations in eight countries including Japan, China and South Korea, in addition to so-called Nanjing Massacre documents inscribed in 2015. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has confirmed that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has encouraged these organizations to nominate jointly the documents for the Memory of the World inscription.

Documents likely to be accepted as Memory of World
     In its meeting planned to start on October 24, the IAC will finally decide on recommendations to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on the inscription. Strong reasons may be required to reverse the RSC recommendation. The strongest of such reasons is that most of documents said to be verifying comfort women as forced to become sex slaves prove that comfort women were public prostitutes.
     On June 30, Bokova received a final report on an institutional reform to protect the Memory of the World program from political abuse, calling for UNESCO to subject questioned nominations to continued talks between relevant parties if no agreement is gained on their inscription. The UNESCO executive committee will finally adopt the report at its meeting starting on October 14.
     On August 23, a Japanese conservative organization, which has nominated “Documentation on ‘Comfort Women’ and Japanese Army Discipline” to be inscribed on the Memory of the World Register, sent the UNESCO secretariat an open letter requesting talks with the joint nominators of “Voices of the ‘Comfort Women’.” The two nominations include the same documents from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. There was no answer from the secretariat.
     The conflicting nominators’ interpretations of “forced sex slaves” widely differ despite the interpretations are based on the same NARA documents including papers made public by the Japanese government. Given a principle that the Memory of the World program is not to judge on or interpret history, UNESCO is required to fairly and neutrally handle and transparently screen Memory of the World nominations.

Resolute attitude should be taken by Japan
     “Voices of the ‘Comfort Women’” nominators have branded the comfort women system as a war tragedy comparable to the Holocaust, clearly running counter to the Memory of the World’s principle of making no judgement or interpretation on history. UNESCO should not endorse such unjust propaganda.
     It has become clear that documents found at the British Imperial War Museum, an additional member of the joint nominators, do not include any material that can objectively verify comfort women as “forced sex slaves.” Clear doubts have been cast over the documents nominated by the joint nominators as proving comfort women as “forced sex slaves.”
     If UNESCO deliberately ignores the doubts and rejects a request for talks between relevant parties as urged in the institutional reform report, it will run counter to the resolution at the 36th UNESCO general conference reaffirming the Memory of the World program as contributing to dialogue and mutual understanding between UNESCO member countries, and will damage seriously the credibility of the U.N. organization. If UNESCO inflames confusion and conflicts in violation of its foundation objective to promote peace, friendship and mutual understanding, its raison d'etre will be severely called into question. In such case, the Japanese government should take a resolute attitude towards UNESCO.

Shiro Takahashi is a Director, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Special Professor at Meisei University