Saturday, May 19, 2012

It's Complicated

Of course, it is not only the spring days of Chinese diplomats which are being ruined by blunt instructions from the ministry back home. Japanese diplomats based in New York are also being told to issue dumb statements, inflaming issues best left alone.

It seems the brilliant strategic campaign being waged on the Palisades Park, New Jersey comfort women monument, briefly described in a long post earlier this week, has, in the immortal words of the Showa Emperor, "developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest."

Or so says The New York Times (Link).

Many, many thanks to read MK for the follow up on this misguided adventure.


Anonymous said...

The Japanese need to take a completely different tact to the issue of war crimes. If it about national pride, and if pride being relative to other nations, why not bring out the dirty laundry of all nations in regards to this period of time? Plenty of war crimes to go around if we expand our focus from 1932 to 1945, to say 1900 to 1975. The Japanese often wonder "why is it just us who are painted with the historical bad guys stick?" And frankly given the considerably longer history of Western colonialism and imperialism they are right to ask this question -but their solution and approach is just so very wrong.

If this is really about "never forgetting" war crimes, why not bring up Korea's massacres of "suspected communists" in the 1950s, or of Vietnamese villagers by Tiger Division in the 60s (as two examples only related to Korea), including all of the sexual exploitation that took place in these wars, along with an honest discussion about Japan's own history. I suspect Japan reopening and promoting some of the war issues with honesty and in the wider context of war and international relations in the 20th century might also taint the name of some of its contemporary "allies" more than those allies would like. Better to remain self-righteous and just claim it is only Japan that has not come to terms with its historical legacy.

In the article you cited the excellent Don Seekins comments:

"Attempts by Japanese officials and Diet members to suppress memory of the wartime "comfort women" are truly disgusting; but it is also true that the history of the comfort women contains some uncomfortable ambiguities. Bruce Cumings in his book KOREA'S PLACE IN THE SUN mentions that "many women were mobilized [to serve as prostitutes] by Korean men" (p. 179). For a number of reasons, Koreans co-operated with the Japanese Imperial Army by rounding up and abducting young women for sexual "service" - which shows that the status of women, especially poor women, was extremely low in both Japanese and Korean societies. They were viewed as simply a natural resource to be exploited.

Moreover, when the Allies moved into Japanese-occupied territories at the end of the war, they were often more than happy to enlist the surviving comfort women for further "service."

"The shameful history of the comfort women is not simply a tale of victims belonging to one nationality and victimizers belonging to another. There is plenty of blame to go around, which is why, as Cumings mentions, both the Japanese and the South Korean governments preferred for a long time to remain silent on the issue."

Anonymous said...


While you're of course right that the countries you aforementioned should own up to their own war crimes.

But two wrongs do not make one right, just because someone else has gotten away with committing rape and pillaging does not justify you from shirking responsibility from the same crime when it's plain darn obvious that you've actually done it.

Anonymous said...


That is precisely my point - Japan's right-wingers have two strategies - either denial or acting as if two wrongs make a right. Either way it's a losing strategy. But I can sympathize with the aversion to the idea that one should face up to and basically promote one's own wrongs while ignoring others -particularly given that those wrongs preceded and are subsequent to the crimes that are the focus. I get the impression this is where the Japanese public is, while the right-wingers, as beneficiaries of the violence and exploitation due to family linkages to war time elites have different interests.