Task force to prep Hashimoto for foreign media
May 24, 2013
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, and Osaka Governor Ichiro Matsui, the party's secretary-general, take questions from reporters at Osaka City Hall on May 16. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Lawmakers have formed a task force to prepare Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto for foreign journalists next week when he explains his “comfort women” remarks that sparked international outrage.
The Diet members of the Japan Restoration Party expect party co-leader Hashimoto to face a barrage of questions at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on May 27.
The task force members include Hiroshi Nakada and Kenta Matsunami of the Lower House.
They are providing Hashimoto with details of the Japanese government’s stance toward the comfort women issue and explaining the foreign media’s coverage of the controversy.
The mayor said his words may have been translated incorrectly and that he wants to clarify his position.
Hashimoto earlier this month said the Japanese military’s comfort women system was “necessary” to provide respite for soldiers during wartime.
The term “comfort women,” or “jugun ianfu” in Japanese, is a euphemism for women, most of them Asian, who were forced to provide sex at frontline brothels before and during World War II.
The United States has joined South Korea and China in denouncing Hashimoto for his “outrageous and offensive” comments.
Hashimoto, a former lawyer and TV commentator, also said he told a U.S. military commander in Okinawa Prefecture early this month that U.S. servicemen should use legal sex services to release their sexual energy. He later explained the remarks were intended to reduce crimes committed by U.S. troops on Okinawa.
Some members of the Japan Restoration Party have suggested that Hashimoto retract his comments on the U.S. military and the sex trade. Hashimoto, however, has refused to budge.
The task force is also working on how jugun ianfu should be translated properly into English.
Although these women are often called “sex slaves” in reports by many foreign news organizations, the lawmakers oppose the use of that term on grounds that it would “undermine Japan’s national interest.”
In the statement released in 1993 in the name of Yohei Kono, then chief Cabinet secretary, the Japanese government acknowledged the Japanese military’s involvement in the operation of frontline brothels and recruitment of comfort women and offered an apology.
Former Korean ‘comfort women' scrap meeting with Hashimoto
May 24, 2013
Former "comfort woman" Kim Bok-dong attends a gathering in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, on May 19. (Tadashi Mizowaki)
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
OSAKA--Two former “comfort women” from South Korea canceled a meeting with embattled politician Toru Hashimoto at the last minute, saying the Osaka mayor has not retracted a series of controversial remarks that included wartime military brothels were “necessary,” or apologized for them.
Kim Bok-dong, 87, and Kil Won-ok, 84, were scheduled to meet with Hashimoto, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, in Osaka on the morning of May 24.
But Nihongun Ianfu Mondai Kansai Network, an aid group tackling the issue of comfort women, told a news conference May 24 that the two women do not want to “play a part in a political performance” being staged by Hashimoto.
Reading a statement summarizing the women’s thoughts, Bang Chung-ja, who co-heads the group, said Kim and Kil “felt torn” by Hashimoto’s comments.
Bang explained that the two are canceling the meeting because they do not want to “participate in a tradeoff between the heart-wrenching reality of the history of former comfort women and Hashimoto’s 'performance' in offering an apology.”
The statement added, “Hashimoto must backtrack on his remarks, which are absurd, and offer an official apology if he really feels sorry for us and do some soul-searching.”
Ichiro Matsui, secretary-general of the party and Osaka governor, told reporters the same day that he was hoping that the meeting will allow the women to gain a better understanding of Hashimoto's personality. But he added that their feelings should be respected.
The two women discussed their experiences and feelings in recent gatherings in Okinawa Prefecture, Hiroshima Prefecture and elsewhere after they arrived in Japan on May 17 at the invitation of the aid group.
Comfort women are a euphemism for women who were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers before and during World War II. Most of them are women from the Korean Peninsula, which Japan colonized from 1910 to 1945.
Kim had requested a meeting with the mayor last fall to demand an apology for Hashimoto's statement that there is no evidence that Japanese authorities assaulted, threatened and abducted comfort women and forced them to work in front-line brothels.
After that request was declined, Kim made a second request in late April.
The municipal government contacted the group on May 13, accepting its request for a meeting with Hashimoto. But on the same day, the Osaka mayor told reporters the comfort women system was “necessary” for Japanese troops during the war, reigniting widespread criticism over his remarks.
statement by Toru Hashimoto
May 27, 2013
Toru Hashimoto (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimioto issues a statement ahead of his press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo.
* * *
Ideals and values on which I stand:
Today, I want to start by talking about my basic ideals as a politician and my values as a human being.
Nothing is more regrettable than a series of media reports on my remarks with regard to the issue of so-called "comfort women." These reports have created an image of me, both as a politician and as a human being, which is totally contrary to my real ideals and values. This has happened because only a portion of each of my remarks has been reported, cut off from the whole context.
I attach the utmost importance to the universal values of human rights, freedom, equality and democracy, whose universality human beings have come to accept in the twenty-first century. As a constitutionalist, I also believe that the essential purpose of a nation's constitution is to bind government powers with the rule of law and to secure freedom and rights of the people. Without such legal limitations imposed by the constitution, the government powers could become arbitrary and harmful to the people.
My administrative actions, first as Governor of Osaka Prefecture and then as Mayor of Osaka City, have been based on these ideals and values. The views on political issues that I have expressed in my career so far, including my view of the Japanese constitution, testify to my commitment to the ideals and values. I am determined to continue to embody these ideals and values in my political actions and statements.
As my ideals and values clearly include respect for the dignity of women as an essential element of human rights, I find it extremely deplorable that news reports have continued to assume the contrary interpretation of my remarks and to depict me as holding women in contempt. Without doubt, I am committed to the dignity of women.
What I really meant by my remarks on so-called "comfort women"
I am totally in agreement that the use of "comfort women" by Japanese soldiers before and during the World War 2 was an inexcusable act that violated the dignity and human rights of the women in which large numbers of Korean and Japanese were included. I am totally aware that their great pain and deep hurt were beyond description.
I also strongly believe that Japan must reflect upon its past offenses with humility and express a heartfelt apology and regret to those women who suffered from the wartime atrocities as comfort women. Our nation must be determined to stop this kind of tragedy from occurring again.
I have never condoned the use of comfort women. I place the greatest importance on the dignity and human rights of women as an essential part of the universal values in today's world. It is extremely regrettable that only the cut-off parts of my remarks have been reported worldwide and that these reports have resulted in misunderstood meanings of the remarks, which are utterly contrary to what I actually intended.
We must express our deep remorse at the violation of the human rights of these women by the Japanese soldiers in the past, and make our apology to the women. What I intended to convey in my remarks was that a not-insignificant number of other nations should also sincerely face the fact that their soldiers violated the human rights of women. It is not a fair attitude to blame only Japan, as if the violation of human rights of women by soldiers were a problem unique to the Japanese soldiers. This kind of attitude shelves the past offenses that are the very things we must face worldwide if we are truly to aim for a better world where the human rights of women are fully respected. Sexual violation in wartime was not an issue unique to the former Japanese army. The issue existed in the armed forces of the U.S.A., the UK, France, Germany and the former Soviet Union among others during World War 2. It also existed in the armed forces of the Republic of Korea during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Against this historical background, I stated that "the armed forces of nations in the world" seemed to have needed women "during the past wars". Then it was wrongly reported that I myself thought it as necessary for armed forces to use women and that "I" tolerated it.
It is a hard historical fact that soldiers of some nations of the world have used women for sexual purposes in wars. From the viewpoint of respecting the human rights of women, it does not make much difference whether the suffering women are licensed or unlicensed prostitutes and whether or not the armed forces are organizationally involved in the violation of the dignity of the women. The use of women for sexual purposes itself is a violation of their dignity. It also goes without saying that rape of local citizens by soldiers in occupied territories and hot spots of military conflict are intolerable atrocities.
Please do not misunderstand, and think that I intend to relativize or justify the issue of comfort women for former Japanese soldiers. Such justification has never been my intention. Whatever soldiers of other nations did will not affect the fact that the violation of the dignity of women by the former Japanese soldiers was intolerable.
What I really meant in my remarks was that it would be harmful, not only to Japan but also to the world, if Japan's violation of the dignity of women by soldiers were reported and analyzed as an isolated and unique case, and if such reports came to be treated as common knowledge throughout the world. It would suppress the truth that the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers not only existed in the past but also has yet to be eradicated in today's world. Based on the premise that Japan must remorsefully face its past offenses and must never justify the offenses, I intended to argue that other nations in the world must not attempt to conclude the matter by blaming only Japan and by associating Japan alone with the simple phrase of "sex slaves" or "sex slavery."
If only Japan is blamed, because of the widely held view that the state authority of Japan was intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women, I will have to inform you that this view is incorrect.
While expecting sensible nations to voice the issue of the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers, I believe that there is no reason for inhibiting Japanese people from doing the same. Because the Japanese people are in a position to face the deplorable past of the use of comfort women by the former Japanese soldiers, to express deep remorse and to state their apology, they are obliged to combat the existing issue of the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers, and to do so in partnership with all the nations which also have their past and/or present offenses.
Today, in the twenty-first century, the dignity and human rights of women have been established as a sacred part of the universal values that nations in the world share. It is one of the greatest achievements of progress made by human beings. In the real world, however, the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers has yet to be eradicated. I hope to aim for a future world where the human rights of women will be more respected. Nevertheless, we must face the past and present in order to talk about the future. Japan and other nations in the world must face the violation of the human rights of women by their soldiers. All the nations and peoples in the world should cooperate with one another, be determined to prevent themselves from committing similar offenses again, and engage themselves in protecting the dignity of women at risk in the world's hot spots of military conflict and in building that future world where the human rights of women are respected.
Japan must face, and thoroughly reflect upon, its past offenses. Any justification of the offenses will not be tolerated. Based on this foundation, I expect other nations in the world to face the issue of the sexual violations in the past wars as their own issue. In April this year, the G8 Foreign Ministers in London agreed upon the "Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict." Based on this accomplishment, I expect that the G8 Summit to be held in this June in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, the UK, will become an important occasion where the leaders of G8 will examine how soldiers from nations in the world, including the former Japanese soldiers, have used women for sexual purposes, face and reflect upon the past offenses with humility, solve today's problems in partnership with one another, and aim for the ideal future.
With regard to my remark in the discussion with the U.S. commander in Okinawa
There was a news report that, while visiting a U.S. military base in Okinawa, I recommended to the U.S. commander there that he make use of the adult entertainment industry to prevent U.S. soldiers from committing sexual crimes. That was not what I meant. My real intention was to prevent a mere handful of U.S. soldiers from committing crimes and strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and the relations of trust between the two nations. In attempting to act on my strong commitment to solving the problem in Okinawa stemming from crimes committed by a minority of U.S. soldiers, I made an inappropriate remark. I will elaborate my real intention as follows.
For the national security of Japan, the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the most important asset, and I am truly grateful to contributions made by the United States Forces Japan.
However, in Okinawa, where many U.S. military bases are located, a small number of U.S. soldiers have repeatedly committed serious crimes, including sexual crimes, against Japanese women and children. Every time a crime has occurred, the U.S. Forces have advocated maintaining and tightening official discipline and have promised to the Japanese people that they would take measures to stop such crimes from occurring again. Nevertheless, these crimes have not stopped. The same pattern has been repeating itself.
I emphasize the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance and greatly appreciate the U.S. Forces' contribution to Japan. Nonetheless, the anger of the Okinawan people, whose human rights have continued to be violated, has reached its boiling point. I have a strong wish to request that the U.S.A. face the present situation of Okinawa's suffering from crimes committed by U.S. soldiers, and take necessary measures to alleviate the problem.
It is a big issue that incidents of sexual violence have frequently happened without effective control within the U.S. military forces worldwide. It has been reported that President Obama has shown a good deal of concern over the forces' frequent reports of military misconduct and has instructed the commanders to thoroughly tighten their official discipline, as measures taken so far have had no immediate effect.
With all the above-mentioned situations, I felt a strong sense of crisis and said to the U.S. commander that the use of "the legally accepted adult entertainment industry in Japan" should be considered as one of all the possible measures. Even if there is no measure with an immediate effect, the current state of Okinawa should not be neglected. From my strong sense of crisis, I strongly hope that the U.S. army will use all possible measures to bring a heartless minority of soldiers under control. When expressing this strong hope, I used the phrase "the legally accepted adult entertainment industry in Japan." When this phrase was translated into English, it led to the false report that I recommended prostitution--which is illegal under Japanese law. Furthermore, my remark was misunderstood to mean that something legally acceptable is also morally acceptable. Although the adult entertainment industry is legally accepted, it can insult the dignity of women. In that case, of course, some measures should be taken to prevent such insults.
However, I understand that my remark could be construed as an insult to the U.S. Forces and to the American people, and therefore was inappropriate. I retract this remark and express an apology. In conclusion, I retract my inappropriate remarks to the U.S. Army and the American people and sincerely apologize to them. I wish that my apologies to them will be accepted and that Japan and the United States of America continue to consolidate their relationship of alliance in full trust.
My real intention was to further enhance the security relationship between Japan and the United States, which most U.S. soldiers' sincere hard work has consolidated, and to humbly and respectfully ask the U.S. Forces to prevent crimes committed by a mere handful of U.S. soldiers. My strong sense of crisis led to the use of this inappropriate expression.
In the area of human rights, the U.S.A. is one of the most conscientious nations. Human rights are among those values accepted throughout the world as universal. In order for human rights of the Okinawan people to be respected in the same way as those of American people are respected, I sincerely hope that the U.S. Forces will start taking effective measures in earnest to stop crimes in Okinawa from continuing.
About the Japan-Korea Relationship
The Japan-Korea relationship has recently gone through some difficult times. Underlying the difficulty are the issue of comfort women and the territorial dispute over the Takeshima Islands. Ideally, Japan and South Korea should be important partners in East Asia, as they share the same values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. I believe that a closer relationship based on greater trust between Japan and South Korea would contribute to the stability and prosperity of not only East Asia but also the world.
One of the points of tension is that concerning wartime comfort women. Some former comfort women in Korea are currently demanding state compensation from the Japanese government.
However, the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea and the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea, both signed in 1965, have officially and decisively resolved any issues of claims arising from the war, including the right of individual persons to claim compensation. Japan has also performed its moral responsibility with the establishment of the Asian Women's Fund, and it paid atonement money to former comfort women even after the resolution of the legal contention with the treaties.
The international community has welcomed the Asian Women's Fund. A report to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations welcomed Japan's moral responsibility project of the Asian Women's Fund. Mary Robinson, the second United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave the Fund a favorable evaluation. Unfortunately, however, some former comfort women have refused to accept the atonement money from the Asian Women's Fund.
Japan has given significant importance to the Treaty on Basic Relations and the Agreement on the Settlement, both of which made final resolution of any legal contention in 1965, and Japan also sincerely faces, reflects on, and apologizes for its own wartime wrongdoings with feelings of deep remorse.
The whole situation poses a rending dilemma for us: how to make such a compensation that former comfort women would accept as our sincere remorse and apology, while also maintaining the integrity of the legal bilateral agreements between Japan and Korea.
The Korean government has recently claimed that interpretive disputes over the individual right of compensation for former comfort women in the Agreement on the Settlement still remain. I hope that the Republic of Korea, as a state governed by the rule of law, recognizes the legal importance of the above-mentioned agreements. If the Republic of Korea still believes that there exist interpretive contentions in the agreements, I think that only the International Court of Justice can resolve them.
One can hope that the same legal/rule-of-law stance is also observed in the resolution of the territorial dispute over the Takeshima Islands.
I firmly believe that neither hatred nor anger can resolve the problems between Japan and Korea. I firmly believe in the importance of legal solution at the International Court of Justice, which arena would allow both sides to maintain rational and legal argument while both maintain both respect for each other and deep sympathy to former comfort women.
I wish to express sincerely my willingness to devote myself to the true improvement of the Japan-Korea relationship through the rule of law.
Keiko Fukano · Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School
Hashimoto's statement ahead of the press briefing at Forein Corrispondents' Club today: since he is good at using media politically Ihope that foreign media do not overlook his contradiction of logic and opportunism such as his values and idelas which can be changed depending on the situation because through translation and just viewing his way of speaking it would be difficult to see his real nature and intention.
Reply · 2 · · Sunday at 8:14pm
Micah Killian · The Evergreen State College
What is his real nature and intention?
Reply · · Sunday at 11:38pm
Mark Murata · Las Vegas, Nevada
Whenever Japan wants something, they start talking about history. The West, worried that Japan will soon expose their crimes, then gives Japan what they want. In this case, it appears that Japan wants North Korea to return the abductees. I wrote a book which talks a lot about this subject: http://bfanwo.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-year-of-snake.html If you want to know how Abe used the comfort women issue in his first administration, read Chapter 3 (the part about the Japan Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement)
Reply · · Monday at 8:14am
Hashimoto apology to United States in the works
May 25, 2013
Toru Hashimoto responds to reporters at Osaka City Hall on May 24. (Kazunori Takahashi)
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto made clear May 25 that he intends to apologize to the United States for suggesting that its military personnel utilize legalized sexual services in Japan.
During a TV appearance, Hashimoto, who is also co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, said, "I will have to make a proper apology on May 27 to the U.S. military and public as well as a retraction of the statement."
Despite a storm of protest over his comments, including one about the necessity of "comfort women" who provided sexual services to Japanese soldiers during World War II, Hashimoto has until now stood by his remarks.
His May 25 comment marked the first time he has shown a willingness to retract part of his comments.
Hashimoto is scheduled to hold a news conference May 27 at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo, where he can expect tough questioning about his views.
He created an international firestorm of criticism when he revealed that he suggested to a U.S. military commander in Okinawa earlier in May that military personnel use legal sex services to curb sexual assaults.
While indicating his retraction was aimed at the U.S. military and public, Hashimoto also explained that he initially made the comment because of sex crimes committed by U.S. military personnel in Okinawa Prefecture, where there is strong opposition to the massive U.S. base presence there.
He said the comment arose "out of remarks intended to cast light on the current situation in which the human rights of the Okinawa people are being violated."
He continued to state his case on the May 25 TV program that Japan was not the only nation whose military utilized the sex industry during World War II.
"There is no doubt that the United States and Britain used women provided by local private-sector businesses," Hashimoto said. "Germany and France also set up military brothels. After World War II, such brothels were also in existence during the Korean War. The use of women by the military should not be viewed as a taboo."
He also praised the Self-Defense Forces because the issue of using sex workers has never been raised, although the militaries of other nations continue to face problems over the issue.
A day earlier, Hashimoto expressed regret that two former South Korean "comfort women" had canceled a planned meeting with him on grounds they did not want to become his political pawns.
"Although it is very regrettable, the feelings of the other party mean everything," he told reporters. "It cannot be helped if someone says they do not want to meet with me now."
He added that he wanted to express his apology to the two women if his comments led to any misunderstanding that hurt them.
However, he also explained that he was not retracting his previous statement.
"I wanted to directly explain my overall intent," Hashimoto said. "I did not say that the system of using 'comfort women' was 'necessary.'"
Hashimoto denies 'will of state' in comfort women system
May 27, 2013
By IZUMI SAKURAI/ Staff Writer
Toru Hashimoto speaks at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on May 27. (Soichiro Yamamoto)
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto on May 27 said the Kono statement that offers Japan’s apology to wartime “comfort women” leaves ambiguous an essential point: the exact role of the Japanese government in the system.
Speaking before a packed house at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo, Hashimoto, co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, denied that Japan abducted and trafficked women for frontline brothels during World War II based on the will of the state authority.
He said that is the opinion of many Japanese historians, and called on Japanese and South Korean historians to jointly study the issue.
Hashimoto did say he has no intention of denying the 1993 statement released in the name of then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that admitted the Japanese military’s involvement in the operation of wartime frontline brothels. He said the statement is “generally correct.”
“The military was involved in examinations for sexually transmitted diseases and other issues, and private-sector businesses used military vessels for transporting the women, although those businesses employed (them) at many comfort stations,” Hashimoto said.
But he said the statement does not adequately address whether it was the will of the state authority to create such a system.
“The Kono statement evades that point in which South Koreans are most interested in,” he said. “That is why relations between Japan and South Korea have not improved.”
Hashimoto’s news conference drew more than 350 journalists from Japanese and foreign media organizations as well as embassy officials. He started the news conference by distributing and reading his six-page statement on his recent remarks on comfort women and other issues, which was released in Japanese and English on May 26.
Hashimoto told reporters on May 13 that the comfort women system, in which women, mainly Koreans, were forced to provide sex to Japanese troops, was a necessary part of the war.
He did not retract the remark on May 27, but he did say the use of comfort women is an “act that violated the women’s dignity and human rights and can never be forgiven.”
“We must reflect on it and sincerely apologize to (former) comfort women,” he said.
Hashimoto also repeated that Japan is not the only country that used women for sex during war.
“The world has not faced up to the past, and made the issue of sex in the battlefields a taboo,” he said.
“If Japan alone is blamed on grounds that Japan abducted and trafficked women based on the will of the state authority during war, that is not true.”
Hashimoto largely repeated his defense of his statements on the comfort women and other issues during the news conference, which lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes. He did not appear flustered by any question from foreign media organizations.
Questions were limited to one per media outlet, and South Korean journalists were not given a chance to ask Hashimoto any questions.
However, the mayor backed away from his proposal to a U.S. commander that U.S. servicemen use “the legally accepted adult entertainment industry in Japan.” Hashimoto made the suggestion on May 1, when he visited the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture.
“It was an inappropriate remark that could be construed as an insult to the U.S. forces and the American people,” Hashimoto said. “I retract this remark and express an apology.”
By IZUMI SAKURAI/ Staff Writer
Hashimoto explains remarks in Q&A session at Tokyo news conference
May 27, 2013
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto addresses the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on May 27. (Izumi Sakurai)
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto on May 27 explained his views on "comfort women" and other issues during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. Excerpts from the question and answer session follow:
Question: Are you trying to suggest that other nations were also somehow involved in the managing of wartime brothels like the Japanese military?
Hashimoto: I have absolutely no intention of justifying the wrongs committed by Japan in the past. We have to always carry within our hearts the terrible suffering experienced by the comfort women.
We should also put an end to unreasonable debate on this issue.
Japan should not take the position of trying to avoid its responsibility. That is what causes the greatest anger among the South Korean people.
I want to bring up the issue of sex in the battlefield. I don't think that the nations of the world have faced their pasts squarely. That obviously includes Japan.
Unless we squarely face the past, we will not be able to talk about the future. Sex in the battlefield has been a taboo subject that has not been discussed openly.
Japan was wrong to use comfort women. But does that mean that it is alright to use private-sector businesses for such services?
Because of the influence of Puritanism, the United States and Britain did not allow the respective governments and militaries to become involved in such facilities. However, it is a historical fact that those two nations used local women for sexual services.
When the United States occupied Japan, the U.S. military used the facilities established by the Japanese government. This is also a historical fact backed by actual evidence.
What I want to say is that it does not matter if the military was involved or if the facilities were operated by the private sector.
There is no doubt that the Japanese military was involved in the comfort stations. There are various reasons, but this is an issue that should be left up to historians.
What occurred in those facilities was very tragic and unfortunate, regardless of whether the military was involved in the facilities or they were operated by private businesses.
Germany had similar facilities as those used by Japan where comfort women worked. Evidence has also emerged that South Korea also had such facilities during the Korean War.
The world is trying to put a lid on all of these facts.
It might be necessary to criticize Japan, but the matter should not be left at that. Today, the rights of women continue to be violated in areas of military conflict. The issue of sex in the battlefield continues to be a taboo.
It is now time to begin discussing this issue.
I have no intention of saying that because the world did it, it was alright for Japan.
Japan did commit wrong, but I hope other nations will also face their pasts squarely.
The past has to be faced squarely in order to protect the rights of women in conflict areas as well as prevent the violation of the rights of women by a handful of heartless soldiers.
Q: Do you feel there is a need to revise or retract the Kono statement on comfort women since there is wording that "the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women," which indicates trafficking was involved?
A: I have absolutely no intention of denying the Kono statement. I feel that what is written in the statement is generally based on fact.
However, it is ambiguous about a core issue.
You brought up the issue of military involvement in the transport of women. Historical evidence shows that private businesses used military ships to transport the women. Most of the employers at the comfort stations were private businesses. There was military involvement in the form of health checks to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Because a war was going on, military vehicles were used in the transport of the women.
The argument of many Japanese historians is that there is no evidence to show that the will of the state was used to systematically abduct or traffic the women. A 2007 government statement, approved by the Cabinet, also concluded there was no evidence to show the will of the state was used for the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women.
The Kono statement avoided taking a stance on the issue that was of the greatest interest of South Koreans. This is the primary reason relations between the two nations have not improved.
The Kono statement should be made clearer.
Historians of the two nations should work together to clarify the details on this point.
The South Korean argument is that Japan used the will of the state for the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women, while the Japanese position is that there is no evidence for such an argument. This point has to be clarified.
Separately from what I just said, there is no doubt that an apology has to be made to the comfort women.
The core argument that the will of state was used for the systematic abducting and trafficking of women is likely behind the criticism from around the world that the Japanese system was unique.
It was wrong for Japanese soldiers to use comfort women in the past. However, facts have to be clarified as facts. If arguments different from the truth are being spread around the world, then we have to point out the error of those arguments.
Q: Do you agree with the argument by Shintaro Ishihara (co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party) that Japan should not have to apologize for the war because it was forced to fight by the economic sanctions and other measures imposed by the United States?
A: Politicians have discussed whether there was military aggression on the part of Japan or colonial domination of the Korean Peninsula. This is an issue that should be discussed by historians.
Politicians who represent the nation must acknowledge the military aggression and the unforgivable colonial domination of the Korean Peninsula.
Denying those aspects will never convince the victorious nations in the war because of the terrible loss of life that was involved in achieving that end.
Politicians who represent the nation have to acknowledge the responsibility for the nation’s actions during World War II. They have to also reflect on and apologize to neighboring nations for causing terrible damage.
Ishihara does have a different view of the past.
That is likely a generational difference between those who lived through the war and those of my generation who were born after the war. This is a very difficult issue for nations defeated in the war.
Those who lived through the war believed that what their government was doing was the right thing.
The vast majority of Japanese acknowledge the military aggression and colonial domination of the war. However, it is very difficult to have all 120 million Japanese agree on this point since Japan is a democracy.
Politicians of my generation should not stir up questions of Japan's responsibility in the war. The duty of politicians of my generation should not be to justify what happened in the war, but work toward creating a better future. Politicians of my generation should face the past squarely and use their political energy for the future.
However, that does not mean that we have to remain silent about any wrong understanding of the facts of the war just because Japan was a defeated nation.
Q: Is it your view that what the Japanese military of that time was involved in does not constitute human trafficking in light of the international understanding that any involvement by any individual or organization in any part of the process is defined as human trafficking? Separately, is it your view that the testimony given by women who were forcibly taken by the Japanese military is not credible?
A: I am not denying Japan's responsibility. Under current international value standards, it is clear that the use of women by the military is not condoned. So, Japan must reflect on that past.
I am not arguing about responsibility, but about historical facts.
I feel the most important aspect of the human trafficking issue is whether there was the will of the state involved. Women were deceived about what kind of work they would do. The poverty situation at that time meant some women had to work there because of the debt they had to shoulder.
However, such things also occurred at private businesses.
I think similar human trafficking occurred at the private businesses that were used by the U.S. and British militaries.
Japan did do something wrong, but human trafficking also occurred at such private businesses.
I feel the human trafficking that occurred at both places was wrong.
I want the world to also focus on that issue that involves other nations.
I am aware that comfort women have given their accounts of what happened. However, there is also historical debate over the credibility of those accounts.
Q: If the government was aware of what was happening at the comfort stations and did nothing, isn't that a form of government and military involvement; and who should bear responsibility for that?
A: Under the present value system, the state must stop human trafficking.
In that sense, Japan cannot evade responsibility by any means.
We must think now of what the government should do when confronted by such a situation.
Hashimoto's explanation fails to impress correspondents, historians
May 28, 2013
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto takes questions at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on May 27. (Soichiro Yamamoto)
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
A complacent smile appeared on the face of Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto when he stepped down from the podium after a lengthy news conference, perhaps feeling vindicated in front of an international audience.
However, journalists and Japanese historians and diplomats said Hashimoto’s carefully selected words at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on May 27 will do little to quell the international criticism that was sparked by his remarks about “comfort women” and his suggestion that U.S. servicemen use legal sex services in Japan to prevent rapes.
Some said Hashimoto, who is also co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, does not seem to understand why his remarks have caused such an uproar.
“While Hashimoto argues that Japan is no different from other countries in using women as sexual objects, the comfort women system of Japan is characterized by a large involvement of the military and the government,” said former diplomat Ukeru Magosaki. “Few Westerners would ever be persuaded (by Hashimoto’s words).”
The controversy surrounding Hashimoto started on May 13 when he told reporters that “anybody could see the comfort women system was a necessary part” of World War II. He added that he had proposed early this month to a U.S. military commander in Okinawa that U.S. servicemen use Japan’s legal adult entertainment industry to release their sexual energy.
“Comfort women” is a euphemism for women, mainly Koreans, who provided sex to Japanese troops at frontline brothels before and during World War II.
About 400 reporters and foreign embassy officials representing about 20 countries attended the May 27 news conference, which Hashimoto had called to clarify his remarks.
During the more than two-and-a-half-hour session, Hashimoto retracted and apologized for his proposal that U.S. troops use the adult entertainment industry. He said that remark was “inappropriate” and “could be construed as an insult to the U.S. forces and the American people.”
However, he would not retract his remark about the comfort women. Instead, he repeated his argument that his remarks were taken out of context, and that other countries did the same thing during war, but only Japan has been singled out for criticism.
He also raised doubts about the Japanese government’s role in the comfort women system.
“The Japanese government should make it clear if there was, or was not, the fact of systematic abduction and trafficking of women conducted under the will of the state," Hashimoto said. “I just said that ‘armed forces in different countries of the world’ apparently needed women ‘during wartime,’ but news reports erroneously said that ‘I believed’ such a system was necessary, that ‘I was approving’ such a system.”
Ikuhiko Hata, a modern historian who watched the online live broadcast of Hashimoto’s news conference, said he approved certain aspects of the Osaka mayor’s behavior during the session.
“It is difficult for a politician to accurately explain historical facts that occurred many decades ago,” Hata said. “Slips of the tongue can arise when one is only faintly aware of an issue but tries to use his own words to discuss it. This time around, he put a lid on his outspokenness and stuck to the position that details should be left for historians to discuss.”
Hata also supported Hashimoto’s argument that the Imperial Japanese Army was not the only military to use frontline brothels.
“No armed forces have clean hands, although the expressions may have been different from case to case. Hashimoto’s context was, ‘So why not acknowledge our guilt together?’” Hata said.
But the historian said he was concerned about Hashimoto’s stated willingness to resolve the comfort women issue.
“He may later come under fire for making such a remark despite a political climate that precludes a resolution,” Hata said.
Carsten Germis, an East Asia correspondent for Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine, was more critical, saying Hashimoto was trying to sidestep the issue by bringing up other countries.
Germis said the Germans have reflected on and apologized for their past, including the Holocaust, and that the Japanese are not entitled to accuse other countries of doing what they did during wartime.
He said that Hashimoto may be a skilled lawyer but he would not qualify as a politician, and his arguments on May 27 cannot have convinced anybody on the international level.
Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor of modern Japanese history at Chuo University in Tokyo, said Hashimoto was “insincere” in refusing to retract his remark about the “necessity” of comfort women.
“The comfort women system was evidently a form of sex slavery, where the subjects had no freedom of residence, outings or quitting the job,” Yoshimi said. “Hashimoto has not acknowledged the system as a form of sex slavery, nor has he admitted that coercion took place at the ‘comfort stations.’”
Magosaki, a former director-general of the Foreign Ministry’s Intelligence and Analysis Bureau, said he expected Hashimoto’s remarks about comfort women to spark international outrage because they “trampled on the dignity of human beings.”
“His way of thinking that hurts the dignity of women has itself become a major issue in the United States and elsewhere, where concerns are also spreading about moves to justify the era of the Imperial Japanese Army,” Magosaki said. “Hashimoto did apologize but has not elaborated on his way of thinking. That will continue to have lingering consequences for relations with the United States.”
South Korean observers were obviously angered by Hashimoto’s remarks, and said their compatriots may never bend on the issue, no matter what the mayor says.
Park Yu-ha, a professor of Japanese literature at Sejong University in Seoul, said South Koreans have long considered the comfort women issue a problem stemming from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula. But some are beginning to view the issue in the broader context of women’s human rights.
She said few South Koreans know that Japan has issued statements of apology to the former comfort women in the names of the successive prime ministers and has provided them with atonement money from a private fund.
“Hashimoto’s remarks at the news conference will hardly be taken at face value,” Park said.
Lee Ji-ho of JPNews, a South Korean news website, said the issue involves much more than just the controversial words of a Japanese politician.
“South Koreans are not viewing the issue in terms of Hashimoto’s specific remarks alone,” Lee said. “They are viewing it in a broader context of recent news reports about the rightward tilt of politicians in Japan and their moves to amend the Constitution. So I don’t believe Hashimoto’s remarks today will ever change the atmosphere (in South Korea).”
Even lawmakers in the Japan Restoration Party, which has lost support since the co-leader’s remarks, were less than upbeat after the news conference.
“(The news conference) worked out well as far as the United States is concerned, but I don’t believe it will change the tide in Japan,” Hiroshi Nakada, the party’s deputy policy chief, told a party caucus.
May 28, 2013
Embattled Hashimoto cancels planned June visit to United States
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto addresses the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo on May 27. (Soichiro Yamamoto)
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
Embattled Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto indicated on May 28 that he was canceling a planned mid-June visit to the United States, staving off a controversy that could have dogged his trip and triggered demonstrations in American cities.
Criticism had arisen in the United States and elsewhere around the world after Hashimoto made comments earlier this month that "comfort women," who provided sexual services to soldiers in the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II, were "necessary" at that time.
The cancellation of Hashimoto's trip to the United States may have been done to avoid possible controversy and further friction in the United States. The Osaka mayor had planned visits to San Francisco and New York for meetings with their mayors as well as visits with local companies.
Because both cities have large numbers of Asian residents, the possibility of demonstrations against Hashimoto during his visits was likely.
Hashimoto, who is also co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party, also suggested to a U.S. military commander in Okinawa that service members use the local adult entertainment industry as a means of keeping a handful of heartless soldiers under control.
At a May 27 news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Tokyo, Hashimoto apologized to the U.S. military and the public for his remark about the use of the adult entertainment industry and retracted his earlier statement.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson previously described Hashimoto's comment related to the U.S. military as "outrageous and offensive."
However, Hashimoto did not retract his statement about the comfort women and added that the 1993 statement issued in the name of then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, which included an apology to the comfort women, should be clarified in terms of whether the will of the Japanese state was involved in the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women and girls.
Abe's remarks have thrown cold water on efforts by South Korea
May 24, 2013
Lee Nae-young is a professor and director of the Asiatic Institute at Korea University.
Lee Nae-young, born in 1958, is a professor and director of the Asiatic Institute at Korea University. An expert on South Korean political discourse and comparative East Asia politics, he earned his Bachelor's degree from Korea University and his Master's from its graduate school. Lee also holds a Ph.D. in politics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Recent confrontations over territorial issues and historical interpretations in Northeast Asia threaten to destabilize the regional order.
The dispute between Japan and China over sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea has heated up since 2010.
As for South Korea, the row over the Dokdo islands, called Takeshima islets by Japan, in the Sea of Japan has intensified of late.
Historical issues have also come into play, notably those involving "comfort women" forced to provide sexual services for the Japanese military during World War II, and visits to war-related Yasukuni Shrine by Japanese Cabinet ministers and other lawmakers, including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso.
Sanae Takaichi of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, center, is among a group of lawmakers who visited Yasukuni Shrine on April 23. (The Asahi Shimbun)
These episodes are impeding progress in developing bilateral ties.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose Liberal Democratic Party took power after scoring a landslide victory in the Lower House election last December, is moving to amend the country's pacifist Constitution and enact a "basic law on national security."
He has also indicated his intention to transform the Self-Defense Forces into a national defense force, and he is seeking worldwide acceptance for Japan to engage in collective defense.
Abe has also made waves by suggesting he wants to revise the Kono Statement issued in 1993 that acknowledged the Japanese military's complicity in coercing Korean women to serve as "comfort women."
Yet immediately after taking office, Abe's first priority was economic recovery. He employed bold policies, such as lowering interest rates.
The Japanese economy, after years of stagnation, is showing clear signs of recovery.
Meanwhile, Abe has taken proactive steps in foreign affairs and national security policy, with moves to shore up Japan's defense capabilities and strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.
For a while, Abe moved cautiously, apparently out of consideration for the international community's concern over his plans to amend the Constitution and revise the Kono Statement.
Abe also refrained from unilaterally seeking mediation from the International Court of Justice in The Hague over Japan's territorial dispute with South Korea.
He clearly did not want to act without gaining South Korea's consent for such an action and moved to maintain friendly ties with the administration headed by President Park Geun-hye.
VISITS TO YASUKUNI, DENIAL OF WARTIME HISTORY
However, the visits to Yasukuni Shrine by Aso and other lawmakers in April sparked an outcry in South Korea and China, and hurt Japan's relations with those two countries.
Neighboring countries that were colonized or attacked by Japan during World War II were shocked that officials in the Abe administration, which placed so much importance on economic recovery, would then follow up with visits to Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan's war dead are honored along with Class-A war criminals.
Abe’s remarks on wartime history have thrown cold water on efforts by South Korea to improve bilateral ties.
Abe has also questioned whether Tokyo’s World War II occupation of nations could be defined as an aggression.
Furthermore, Abe administration officials, as well as Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, have tried to deny wartime crimes and atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army.
The South Korean government, and the public, have responded to the Abe administration’s scandalous perception and remarks on wartime history with anger and harsh criticism.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se canceled a planned visit to Japan last month.
The Abe administration's plans to strengthen the SDF with the goal of becoming a "normal state" are not entirely incomprehensible when one considers Japan's international standing. Yet, Abe’s remarks on wartime history and visits by Cabinet members to Yasukuni Shrine indicate an insensitive attitude and complete disregard by the Japanese government and the Japanese people concerning their country's past offenses.
Because of this, neighboring countries worry that if the SDF is made stronger, then Japan will use its military might to repeat its past mistakes.
The Japanese people need to understand that.
The LDP is expected to win a majority of seats in the Upper House election in July, stoking concern that Abe will use a powerful base of support to more aggressively push forward with nationalistic foreign affairs and national security policies toward amending the Constitution and turning Japan into a military power.
South Korea and Japan must cooperate closely in order to curb North Korea's nuclear weapons development and hold a rising China in check.
But I believe such cooperation will become difficult if Japan-South Korea ties cool over a rightward shift by the Abe administration and discord surrounding territorial and historical issues.