Friday, April 27, 2007

Abe Shinzō - Plagiarist?

At a hastily arranged meeting with a group of leaders of the U.S. Congress, Prime Minister Abe Shinzō was asked about his position on the Comfort Women--the only fathomable reason the meeting had had to be arranged.

According to scuttlebutt, the PM explained to the assembled that he had been misquoted on the "no evidence of coercion" statement--which is correct, if not for the Kantei-concocted reason that he was only talking about the study compiled before the release of the Kōno Statement.

The Prime Minister then proceeded to confess what were ostensibly his true feelings as regards the women:


Now translating this in the most literal, awkward way possible, one extracts from the above something on the order of:

"Along with the heartfelt sympathy I am expressing toward the former Comfort Women (honorific plural) who tasted (honorific conjugation) the bitterness of life, I am filled with the feeling of wanting to say 'I'm so sorry' as regards the extremely painful situation into which they were put."

I have some difficulties with the original, particularly the first phrase ending in the imperfect "suru to tomo ni". My confusion over the PM not choosing the continuative shite iru probably just exposed the wretched poverty my understanding of Japanese grammar.

[Any and all better translations of this passage will be gratefully accepted in Comments]

After losing it over the grammar, your second perplexed thought (OK, maybe not yours, but definitely mine) is:

"Who starts out his sentences 'For those who have tasted the bitterness of life' and ends it with "and you know, I am filled with a feeling of 'I don't know what to say?"

Where the hell is the makoto ni for the full frontal makoto ni mōshi wake nai effect?

Who talks like this?

Who indeed?

Engaging the wayback machine, we find almost the identical sentence in reports of Abe's love call to President Bush on April 3.

Well, almost identical. There is the one, interesting deviation:

Source: 2007/04/04 Mainichi Online, link here.

Owabi o hyōmei shite iru...

OK, so here we have the continuative this time...but more interestingly, we have Abe telling Bush about his continual and continuing expressions of apology (owabi o hyomei).

For some reason the PM was not feeling full of "Gosh this is just too bad" sorriness on that day...but sure wanted to assure the president of his vow of "Apologies now...apologies forever!"

Or something like that.

But what of this high-faluting intro to these two sentences: "for those who have tasted the bitterness of life?"

Well, through the skepticism born of knowing Mark Twain's Rule #7 of rules governing literary art in the domain of romantic fiction, the cut-and-paste function on my computer and Google, of course, I believe we have the culprit:

Recognize it? You can find it here on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

OK, I'll stop being's the Katō Statement--the July 6, 1992 announcement by the then Chief Cabinet Secretary Katō Kōichi acknowleding the results of an in-house government survey that confirmed Japanese Imperial government involvement in the establishment of the comfort women network of brothels.

Oh, the heartfelt sympathy!

Care to lay any bets on a determined researcher's ability to Google up the origins of the rest of the sentence?


Anonymous said...

Mr Abe was NOT asked about the CW.

He brought it up all by himself after reviewing how much Japan had done to help US efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and how important the alliance was. There were no questions posed to him on the subject. He dug the hole all by himself. Everyone listened politely; everyone wondered what he meant by only expressing a "sense of apology" for the comfort women.

Edith Cavell

Anonymous said...

I've gotta say, I don't think it's all that remarkable that a prime minister would use carefully crafted language over and over. It's generally known as a talking point.


Anonymous said...

Thorensen: Jack, I have these great lines for your inaugural speech...

Kennedy: Ted, what do I need your lines for? Every single line that goes out under my name is written by yours truly. You should know that, you were my research assistant for Profiles in Courage!

Thorensen: Sure, Jack.

Kennedy: Who are you talking to anyway?

Thorensen: That's George Bush's line.

Kennedy: And that's an anachronism.

Thorensen: Sorry, Mr. President.

Jun the Obscure