Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Looking at the So-Called Comfort Women Agreement

First, read the announcement of the agreement on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. (Link)

Second, read what Tatsumi Yuki of the Stimson Center has dashed out (she is a wonderworker). She nails down the implications of the main points of the agreement like no one else can. (Link)

A few additional thoughts:

- Over the weekend the Japanese news media reported a blizzard of leaked details about the agreement. Many of these reported details turned out to have been wrong.

a) the reported size of the fund was 100 million yen. The actual fund will be TEN TIMES that amount

(Hey, it is Japanese taxpayer money, so who cares, right? It is not as if those who poured oil on the fire of the comfort women issue all these years had to personally pony up.)

b) South Korea is not contributing to the fund. Instead, all it is doing is opening the account in its name.

c) The comfort woman statue in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul is not being removed or moved. The South Korean government has merely agreed to talk to the private interests who built it, keeping in mind Japanese government concerns about the statue.

A forensic look at the reporting over the weekend would determine which news organization reported which false assertion when. However, in general, by Monday morning, all the major news outlets, ideological cant notwithstanding, had at least a couple details about the agreement wrong. As a result, on Monday morning, the agreement being described in the news media was unbelievable.

Now just how it was that so many false leads were planted, and by whom for what purpose, is largely an academic exercise. However, a cavalier treatment of reporters, burning them with fake leaks, may have more serious consequences down the road for the perpetrators. The reporters will simply not trust their sources anymore, making the news media less likely to play along with whatever mischief or agenda shaping the leaker may wish to perpetrate in the future.

- Now we have a very good reason for why Inada Tomomi was passed over for a Cabinet post in the October Cabinet reshuffle. A Cabinet Decision (kakugi kettei) by the full Cabinet is necessary for the agreement to become official government policy. In light of Inada's longtime, vehement assertions that the South Korean position on the comfort women is "all too many lies" (Link - J) her vote on the Seoul agreement would have been uncertain. Most likely than not, she would have had to resign rather than vote in favor of what was announced yesterday, damaging both her career and any image of sincere Japanese government remorse.

So Abe kept her out of the Cabinet, avoiding a certain clash. Smart.

- Aside from the limp ROK promise to talk to private parties on the statue issue, most of the wording of the announcement favors the Japanese side.

Take the first line of yesterday's agreement, with the seemingly missing "its" after the conjunction:
(i) The issue of comfort women, with an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time, was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women, and the Government of Japan is painfully aware of responsibilities from this perspective.
The Japanese military gets off the hook here, with the procurement of women for its officers and enlisted men downgraded to "an involvement" in the trafficking. The Japanese text is actually a bit more forceful, saying that activities took place "under the umbrella of" (kanyo no shita ni) of the Imperial Army. However, the Japanese is also more legalistic, quarantining the military as being not the Imperial Army but "the army of that time" (toji no gun).

As for what might be called "the missing 'its" as in "the Government of Japan is painfully aware of its responsibilities" it is also missing in the Japanese text. When I was reading the first reports of the agreement in Japanese, I wondered whether the lack of a clear recognition of the government's being responsible was the result of a stylistic or an intentional vagueness. The awkward English translation seems to confirm an intentional fudging, again very much to the benefit of the GOJ, of just whose responsibilities are being discussed.

- Is it just me, or does the announcement seem a lot like an agreement struck between children? Both sides agree to fulfill their part of the bargain as long as the other side fulfills theirs first. Adults do not demand these kind of chronologically impossible guarantees, do they?

- Trying to make sense of what was being reported in the news, I came to an incorrect conclusion in my post of yesterday. However, I wrote to a friend:

"I find Abe's diplomacy refreshingly amoral -- never seeking to do what is right, only that which incrementally increases leverage, knocks opponents off balance and fulfills the minimum requirement."

A few days back I also tweeted:

I believe yesterday's announcement not inconsistent with these statements.

As a result of yesterday Abe Shinzo is being hailed as "Japan's Nixon," cutting the deal only he can cut as in "only Nixon can go China."

Uhmmm...please tell me something I did not already know...a year ago.

After careers as arsonists on the comfort women issue, Prime Minister Abe and President Park had their surrogates show up on the scene with fire extinguishers. We will see if the current geopolitical environment allows the pair of hereditary rulers of their respective countries to simply waltz away from their suddenly unfriended extremists.

No comments: