Thursday, August 07, 2014

After The Asahi Shimbun Retractions

"It's an old habit....I spent my whole life trying not to be careless....Women and children can afford to be careless but not men."

Vito Corleone, The Godfather (1972)
Now replace "men" with "liberals" and "women and children" with "conservatives and libertarians" and you have a pretty accurate picture of the world we live in.

After decades of resistance, The Asahi Shimbun three days ago began the painful process of retracting a series of articles it had published over the years containing the undocumentable and likely false statements of a former civilian labor recruiter. The late Yoshida Seiji had claimed he had organized a forcible round up of 200 women on the island of Cheju-do for service as prostitutes in "comfort stations" for the Imperial Japanese Army. Unfortunately for the Asahi and news organizations quoting the Asahi on the story, investigations into the accuracy of Yoshida's claims found no evidence of their being true.

Conservative publications and commentators have been going to town on The Asahi Shibun's about face (Link). The humiliation of the right's "Class A War Criminal" as regards the comfort women and the Kono Statement has stimulated some...oh let us say "opportunistic" leaders of certain demand Diet investigation of the Asahi's reversal. (Link and Link J video)

The overdue repudiation of Yoshida's claims has of course hurt the cause of those urging an East Asian entente on the comfort women issue. Yoshida's claims and their debunking have focused attention in Japan on the issue of whether the comfort women were recruited "forcibly in the narrow sense" --, i.e. kidnapped by government employees or their direct agents -- leaving underexamined the larger issue of the impossible-to-defend trafficking of women from colonized or occupied areas to provide sexual services to soldiers, sailors and officers at or near Imperial Army and Imperial Navy installations. It is an absurd assertion of Japanese revisionist circles that the only reason the comfort women issue has existed as an element of international relations has been The Asahi Shimbun's printing of articles on the subject. The idiotic domestic debate on "coercion in the narrow sense" has, of course, made the Japanese government and people look like a creepy bunch of sniveling, moon-eyed automatons obsessed with the avoidance of blame or the appearance of remorse.

When latest matsuri sawagi of hooting, hollering and "I told you so" dies down, of course, Japanese of all stripes will find that the Asahi's retractions matter not one jot in the way the world perceives the issue (Link). The world outside Japan's borders focuses, unsurprisingly, on coercion in the broader sense, which is:
Recruitment of non-national women or boys to provide sexual services for an occupying or colonial government's employees, whether through cash inducements, deceit or abduction, whether by government personnel or agents, in colonized or occupied territories, is a coerced act, no matter the legal status of prostitution in the occupying country.

That brutal reality, one of the many brutal, horrifying realities of the way the Japanese Imperial forces operated, has not changed in the aftermath of the Asahi's publication of retractions of some of its stories.

Later - Did not see this until now but it seems the good folks at JapanRealTime clicked in with a report yesterday. (Link)


Anonymous said...

The humiliation of the right's "Class A War Criminal" as regards the comfort women and the Kono Statement

Is this some earlier controversy you're referring to? I'm not sure what you mean by this.

MTC said...

Anonymous -

Revisionists refer to The Asahi Shimbun as the Class A War Criminal (A-kyu senpan) of the Comfort Women controversy, portraying the Asahi as guilty of waging a war of aggression against the honor of Japan and its military.

Philippe said...

Having just now caught up with the whole hubbub (I know, the story is at least 24hours old, an eternity in twitter time), I have to wonder, what caused the Asahi to fess up now? Blackmail?

I mean, it was well known that that guy wasn’t the most reliable source (ahem…) both on the left and the right, and if memory serves even the Asahi had stopped referring to his story in editorials and the like. So why now ?¿¡?

PS - Do you have a source for your definition of coercion? You should add a link.

MTC said...

Phillipe -

I will try to track down the back story to the mea culpas and the analytical essays by Gluck, Mochizuki, Hata, Yoshimi and Oguma.

As for the "definition" -- actually more a polemical assertion -- it is mine.

Nelson Mac said...

Actually I think this retraction does change things. It means that the responsible ones for the abductions of women in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan is not the Japanese military or the Japanese government.

The responsible ones were the pimps who recruited women under false pretenses and kept them against their will. That's a target everyone can agree was bad.

If people are sincerely concerned about this issue, they should go after these pimps (even if most of them are probably dead).

ArmchairAsia said...

Nelson Mac,

The repudiation of ONE testimony does not repudiate all testimony. There are accounts by women throughout the Pacific of all races and backgrounds that highlight members of the Japanese military as having "acquired" them.

The Dutch girls were selected by officers and literally thrown into a truck. Filipino girls were raped by soldiers under orders in front of their fathers and dragged off. Andaman Island girls were taken at will by soldiers. And many Chinese girls were traded for the safety of their village from marauding Japanese troops.

Frankly those pimps in Korea often worked closely with the Kempei Tai and most certainly worked under the protection and sanction of the Imperial Japanese colonial government. The Japanese girls were sold by a male family member. They followed a long tradition of prostitution in Japan, which was exploited by Meiji Japan through the Karayukisan system to fund the new Empire.

You fall into a trap, set by the Abe people, to think that all the girls and boys used were only Korean or Taiwanese. The estimate of 200,000 girls is based on the knowledge that every place the Japanese military set foot, they used both trafficked and local girls.

Hitokiri Dom said...

Besides some accounts in Nanking of the Japanese Army using boys as substitutes for their "activities", I have not heard the Japanese military using boys on such a large scale as women from their conquered territories. Do you have a source for this? Or did you mean girls?

MTC said...

Hitokiri Dom -

Look at slide 12 of this Japan Embassy of Washington presentation ( ). Note the use of awkward use of the word "recipients" in the Netherlands case.

Elsewhere in official GOJ documents (for example: ) and Asian Women's Fund-related documents those receiving the compensation and apologies are referred to variously as "persons" and the grammatically incorrect "people."

The avoidance of the word "women" in the thoroughly investigated Dutch case was deliberate.

moguro said...

Asahi Shimbun Newspaper admitted that the Yoshida Tesimony, the whole basis of Korean allegation of young girls taken to work at brothels by the Japanese Army was proved to be FALSE. Are you still continuing to tell lies to the whole world?

moguro said...

No one argue that there were comfort women and comfort women. The only issue is whether there was forcible round-up of 200,000 girls by the Japanese military or police authority as so written on the metal plaques of comfort women memorials in many places in the United States. No matter what the world is focused on, the Asahi’s retraction of articles citing the Yoshida Testimony proves that allegations of forcible round-up of girls by the Japanese military or police authority are FALSE.

How can you hang a man with just hearsay or unilateral allegation with no supporting evidences? It is what you call inadmissible evidences. If you do hang a man with only hearsay, it is lynching.

Also you should note that Indonesian Sumarang Incident was the exceptional case.

MTC said...

moguro -

If you were in the habit of reading my blog posts, rather than just this one, you would know that my conception of coercion is not coercion in the limited sense, which was illegal within the confines of the Japanese Empire. Coercion in the limited sense did take place but primarily of men for service in the coal mines and other war materiel industries. Yoshida in his written work confessed to rounding up men for these tasks and no one contradicted him.

The recruitment/provision of women to serve in the brothels of the Japanese military does not have to be round ups by military personnel and police officers for the result to coercive. Colonialism alone, particularly taking advantage of the exceptions to the White Slavery Convention available to colonial powers provides all the leverage necessary for the relationship between brothel operator and prostitute, or between Japanese military customer and prostitute to be coercive in nature and in substance.

Did other countries have similar systems? Until such time as study comparing the comfort stations to the the French military's BMCs demonstrates otherwise, the answer at least in the French case seems to be, "Yes." What is the big difference? The governments of the Mahghreb and Southeast Asia have not decided to make the BMCs touchstones of their nation's ethnic identities. In the case of the comfort stateions, the Koreans have.

Japan, for good or ill, cannot pick and choose its geographical neighbors or the parts of history its geographic neighbors emphasize.

Life is unfair in that way, sometimes.

moguro said...


If you are talking about coercion only in its broader sense, what’s the problem?

All people are working under some coercion. You get up early in the morning and commute to be in time for the office opening hour and have to stay there for 8 hours. See the prostitutes anywhere in the world. They got a large amount of advance money and are paying back the amount by sleeping with men. It was the comfort women system. In other words, the comfort women system can be called as “Indentured Prostitution.”

Korean brothel operators, procurers and whoremongers as well as their underling may have forcibly took away young girls in return for a large amount of advance money paid to their parents. But it is not the responsibility of the Japanese government.

You may call me a revisionist, a right winger, an apologist or whatsoever, but the fact is the fact.

moguro said...


>Did other countries have similar systems?

All armies have camp followers including brothels. The English term “hooker” means a prostitute. The term hooker was derived from the Federal Army general Joseph Hooker in the civil war, as he always got many prostitutes in his tent.

Do you know that 122 Korean comfort women, who served the U.S Army during the Korean War and thereafter, sued the Korean Government in June?

MTC said...

moguro -

Thank you for elucidating the fundamental principle here: that all arguments defending Japan's honor in the comfort women controversy are rooted in the soil of contempt for prostitutes.

mogro said...


I am sensitive on this issue of comfort women because:

1) One of my aunts was a Japanese comfort woman. I firmly believe that she saved the family by sacrificing her life.

2) I grew up and live in Yokohama where the U.S. 8th Army, which comprised of 230,000 men, landed for occupation of Japan. Just imagine what will happen if a victorious army of such a large size occupies a war-torn country where people are searching for food from morning to night every day. There were all kinds of war crimes including rapes, theft, abduction and murders. The US Army Generals demanded Japan to establish comfort women stations and, soon a large number of prostitutes gathered from all over Japan. The statistics show 70,000 prostitutes provided sex for US servicemen in Yokohama alone. They saved the rest of the women and girls.

I am quite indignant about this issue because the Koreans are using the false allegation of forcible round-up of 200,000 girls by Imperial Japanese Army/government authority as their smear propaganda campaign against us (and some Americans and Europeans are joining the smear campaign). Prostitution was a completely legitimate business by 1950s. The false allegation injures the honor of our ancestors, the honor of the present-day Japanese, and the honor of the future unborn Japanese.

If you are walking on a street and the police arrests you, and some women are crying: “YOU RAPED US!!” and you are totally innocent, what will you do?

Koreans, together with some Americans and Europeans, are trying to tattoo the words “THIS MAN IS A RAPIST” on our head. Can you walk in a street with such words tattooed on your head? That is the point of the problem.

moguro said...


I checked the figure. Please change the wording in the previous message

The statistics show 70,000 prostitutes provided sex for US servicemen in Yokohama alone.
The statistics show 70,000 prostitutes provided sex for US servicemen at peak-time all over Japan.