起業家の冒言(オピニオン) 起業家の冒言 一覧へ

Aug 19, 2014

Politics & Society Asahi Shimbun Newspaper Publishing Company admitted errors in its previous reports on the “comfort women” issue. In the next step, we must work to restore the international society’s trust in Japan.

It is one thing to make a mistake, and quite another thing not to admit it.” (Mr. Stephen Richards Covey)

The Asahi Shimbun admitted errors in its reports on comfort women issues. I would like to appreciate its decision, despite it being long overdue (32 years!) in admitting the errors. At the same time, I would like to stress the responsibility of the Asahi Shimbun for having worsened Japan-ROK relations and disgraced Japan’s image in the international community.

<Summary from the Asahi Shimbun>
“We were unable to discover materials attesting that the Japanese military and other authorities gathered women on an organizational basis in a manner akin to human trafficking.”

“We will retract the articles we ran based on the testimony of Mr. Seiji Yoshida since we have judged that his testimony was false: the testimony that he had forcibly gathered women on the South Korean island of Jeju and sent them to work in wartime military brothels.”

“Our reporter misused some materials that confused comfort women with teishintai (women volunteer corps) who worked at factories during the war.”

Now it has become clear that there was no coercive recruitment of women by the military or government authorities. So, what do the statues of comfort women erected across the United States represent? On what grounds are discussions on human rights being held at the United Nations? For what reasons should Japan-ROK relations become so entangled?

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko commented in NewsPicks (a social and business news app) that the Asahi Shimbun should provide a clear explanation to overseas organizations that adopted a resolution or made a report based on the testimony of Mr. Seiji Yoshida (organizations such as the UN Commission on Human Rights and the U.S. House of Representatives).

The Asahi Shimbun is responsible for addressing the outcomes of its false report. I truly hope that the newspaper will correct its errors and disseminate accurate information to the world, so as to rectify the entangled Japan-ROK relations and to clear up the misconceptions of the international community. In consideration of the great magnitude of this problem, I will continue to demand the realization of the following three points persistently:

1) Individuals involved in the false reporting of the Asahi Shimbun (particularly Mr. Takashi Uemura, a former reporter of the Asahi Shimbun) and Mr. Yohei Kono should be summoned to the National Diet. If they admit to the errors and misunderstandings, they should correct them and apologize at the National Diet.

2) The Statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono (hereinafter “the Kono Statement”) should be amended, and a new statement should be issued, stating clearly that the women concerned were not forced to work and that they were paid.

3) Thorough communication should be sought to disseminate the information that the women’s recruitment was not coercive, that the women received economic compensation, and that although the system was never desirable, it has already been settled legally.

The Asahi Shimbun and the Kono Statement bear great responsibility. We should never cease to demand the realization of the three points that I have mentioned above. Otherwise, the Japanese will be branded as evil people forever. It is the responsibility of our present generation to rectify errors and misunderstandings based on historical facts. We must also rebuild good relations with our neighboring countries on a future-oriented basis, and pass on a better image of Japan to our children.

August 10, 2014
In a mountain cabin
Yoshito Hori


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  • Very interesting article and risky topic. Let me try modestly to bring some slightly different and critical view at this topic.
    Given the balance of power between Japan and Korea at a time when Japan was ruling the Korean peninsula, and the nature of prostitution in general and the sordid reasons that usually pushes women to it, let alone 75 years ago when our civilisation was not as developed and the rule of law was not very protective of human rights and dignity, there is little doubt in my mind that those poor women were subject to actual human trafficking.
    Who was really involved? Was it the former Imperial army? Was it some Korean mafia?
    Yet again, it does not really matter as the balance of power and thus the duty and related accountability fell onto the former Imperial army.
    In 1965, Japan settled all war-related damage[1] with President Park Chung-hee, current President Park Geun-hye, very own father by paying to Korea $800 million[2]. At the time President Park Chung-hee used the money to rebuild South Korea from years of war and conflict.
    As it turned out, for a long time, the Korean did not seem to be aware of this agreement, and when it was revealed in 2005 that the "Korean negotiators made a number of statements that could be construed as surrendering the rights of individual Koreans to sue the Japanese government."[3].
    So, from the point of view of international law one could think that Japan is right and that the repeated demand for apologies and compensation has been legally settled in 1965. At least, this is the stance of the Japanese government. A cold-hearted stance that ignores the feeling of the Korean people left in limbo.
    But how is that the problem of the Japanese people?
    Well, the current position of Japan is putting it in a corner and in an morally indefensible position. Surely Japan has nothing to envy to the horrors perpetrated by the western powers at the hight of their own imperialism, like the French in Indochina, Algeria, the British in India, China, the American in the Philippines, etc. Although this may put things in perspective, it does not however relieve Japan from this morally indefensible position it keeps maintaing.
    Furthermore, this is being played nicely in the context of geopolitics with an assertive communist China, only too happy to demonise Japan and to draw a line of lack of repentance even in today's generation, and a nasty implicit conclusion that things have not really changed. South Korea whose economy is struggling is only too happy to please China by antagonising Japan, and increase its economic relationship with China in the hope it will help buoy its economy.
    Luckily, Japan's reputation of great art, rich culture and outstandingly resilient economy is still resonating throughout the world, so the negative impact is not material in my opinion – at least not yet.
    But one should look out into the future, and it is clear that Japan-Korean relations are critical to the future of Japan.
    It is one of the major economic power in Asia with a 3.6% GDP growth and a low unemployment rate of 3.4%[4].
    So where does this leave Japan?
    Japan has a recognised culture rooted in consensus and pragmatism, and it surely should leveraged those great qualities in taking a hard look at its long-term interest and consider ultimately, in my opinion, that apologising again, providing compensation where needed and holding numerous event to strengthen its ties with South Korea is not only the right moral thing to do, but would also serve its interest in term of geopolitics and macroeconomics.

    Posted by:J.D.

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