Media Abuzz Over Asahi Retraction on ‘Comfort Women’
By JUN HONGO
Then-government spokesman Yohei Kono delivered an apology over “comfort women” in 1993. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Japan’s newspapers usually refrain from reporting on each other’s activities, but this week media outlets are abuzz over a retraction issued Tuesday by the Asahi newspaper over reporting on World War II “comfort women.”
The Asahi retracted articles that cited testimony by author Seiji Yoshida, who said he had taken part in abducting 200 women on Jeju Island during the war. The women were forced to become “comfort women,” or workers at sex brothels for the Imperial Japanese Army, according to his testimony.
The Asahi said it first published Mr. Yoshida’s story in September 1982 and mentioned him in at least 16 articles through the 1990s. But it said his stories couldn’t be confirmed.
“We have judged that Mr. Yoshida’s statement, in which he said that he took comfort women by force from Jeju Island, was fake, and we retract the article,” wrote the left-leaning daily, which has second-largest circulation in the country. “At the time we could not figure out that the statement was fake.”
The Asahi said Mr. Yoshida, who wrote two memoirs, died in 2000. In 1997, he told the paper over the phone that his books were based on facts and what he experienced, according to the Asahi.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been critical of Asahi’s series of reports, calling Mr. Yoshida a “crook” during a debate at the Japan National Press Center in November 2012, shortly before Mr. Abe started his second stint as prime minister. The comfort-women issue expanded and spread across the country “because of the inaccurate reporting by Asahi,” Mr. Abe said.
The Asahi’s review of its reporting took up two full pages of Tuesday’s paper and an additional two full pages Wednesday. While retracting the articles citing Mr. Yoshida, the paper said there was solid evidence to show that the kidnapping of women by the Imperial Japanese Army took place in other parts of Asia.
The Japanese government apologized in 1993 to Asian women forced to serve soldiers sexually. The apology, known as the Kono Statement, says the women “in many cases … were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion, etc.,” and “lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere.” Mr. Abe has said he will uphold the statement.
Conservatives in Japan have questioned the Kono statement, and they were quick to claim vindication in the Asahi’s retraction. The conservative Sankei newspaper said the Asahi should issue an official apology over what the Sankei called “groundless and inaccurate” articles. The Sankei also criticized the Asahi for the tardiness of its response.
The Yomiuri Shimbun, which has the largest circulation in Japan, touched on the impact it said the Asahi’s erroneous reports had in amplifying diplomatic tensions between Tokyo and Seoul. The Yomiuri referred to a 1996 United Nations report that said “the practice of ‘comfort women’ should be considered a clear case of sexual slavery and a slavery-like practice.” Conservatives in Japan have disputed that terminology.
In the years after the Asahi’s now-retracted articles on Mr. Yoshida, an “incorrect understanding of history spread across the world,” the Yomiuri said.
Asahi Shimbun's stance questioned after withdrawal of 'comfort women' articles
The Asahi Shimbun admitted with an apology in its Aug. 5 morning edition that there were factual errors in some of its articles on the so-called wartime "comfort women" issue. But the major Japanese daily emphasized that the facts about the issue were "not intentionally distorted."
While some experts hail the Asahi Shimbun for carrying verification articles which acknowledge that some of its articles were false, some other critics raise questions about Asahi's reporting stance.
In its two-page spread examining its past articles on "comfort women," Asahi tried to verify the credibility of statements made by Seiji Yoshida (deceased) who had revealed his own experience of rounding up women against their will. The article said that the Asahi Shimbun had published articles 16 times since 1982 based on Yoshida's statements, including the one which said he "hunted out" 200 young Korean women on Jeju Island. The Asahi said, however, that although it had gathered additional information on the issue on Jeju Island for verification purposes, it could not obtain corroborative evidence to back up Yoshida's statements. The Asahi Shimbun then said it deemed the statements were false and therefore it would retract the articles.
With respect to the Asahi Shimbun's articles on "comfort women," there have been a flood of online postings criticizing a particular Asahi reporter by name. The reporter wrote an article on testimonies from former comfort women in August 1991, ahead of South Korean media. Because a South Korean woman who supports former comfort women in their court battles is the reporter's mother-in-law, there have been online postings suspecting that the reporter took advantage of his relations with the woman to write stories in favor of former comfort women.
The Asahi Shimbun examined the reporter's coverage of the comfort women issue this time around. The newspaper quoted the reporter as saying, "I went to South Korea after being contacted by the then bureau chief in Seoul. I have never reported for the purposes of benefiting my mother-in-law and others." The reporter was also quoted as saying, "I have never taken advantage of my kinship to obtain special information." He went on to say that he had never intentionally avoided inconvenient stories dealing with the personal history of former comfort women.
In a front-page article, Asahi Shimbun Executive Editor Nobuyuki Sugiura argued that little research on comfort women had been done in the early 1990s when the issue of comfort women began to come under the spotlight. He then explained the background in which "volunteer corps" at Japanese munitions factories and "comfort women" had been mixed up. He then said he would never accept such arguments that the Asahi Shimbun had fabricated the comfort women issue and that there is no reason for Japan to apologize to former comfort women.
The Mainichi Shimbun has reported on the comfort women issue since the early 1990s when the issue began to attract attention at home and abroad, based on its coverage of former comfort women themselves, their support groups as well as government officials, experts and other relevant sources.
On the front page of its Oct. 19, 1991 Tokyo morning edition, the Mainichi carried an article on a private research group releasing a list of about 126,000 women who were forcibly drawn from the Korean Peninsula. In the Jan. 11, 1992 evening edition, the Mainichi reported on the discovery of documents suggesting that the former Imperial Japanese Army had set up and managed brothels.
With respect to Seiji Yoshida, the Mainichi reported in its morning editions on Aug. 12 and 13, 1992 that he had visited South Korea to make apologies. In the articles, the Mainichi quoted Yoshida as saying that he had carted off comfort women and other people, while simply reporting that he apologized directly to former comfort women during a Seoul event.
August 06, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Asahi Shimbun admits errors in past ‘comfort women’ stories
BY REIJI YOSHIDA
AUG 5, 2014
The Asahi Shimbun admitted Tuesday to serious errors in many articles on the “comfort women” issue, retracting all stories going back decades that quoted a Japanese man who claimed he kidnapped about 200 Korean women and forced them to work at wartime Japanese military brothels.
The correction came more than 20 years after the Sankei Shimbun based on studies by noted historian Ikuhiko Hata first pointed out apparent errors in the man’s account in April 1992.
Hata and the Sankei said there was no evidence supporting the account of Seiji Yoshida, who claimed he conducted something akin to “human hunting” by rounding up about 200 women on Jeju-do Island in present-day South Korea.
All local residents interviewed by Hata denied Yoshida’s claims. Mainstream historians have now agreed that his statements were false.
Yoshida, who claimed to have worked for a labor recruitment organization in Yamaguchi Prefecture during the war, reportedly died in July 2000.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly called out the Asahi for quoting Yoshida’s accounts, saying the paper’s “erroneous reports” have magnified the issues involving the so-called comfort women.
Asked to comment on the Asahi’s retraction of the articles during his regular news conference Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: “We hope correct recognition of the history will be formed, based on objective facts.”
The term comfort woman is a euphemism referring to women forced into sexual servitude in wartime Japanese military brothels. Media outlets and activists often describe them as “sex slaves,” given the harsh conditions they faced.
The Asahi repeatedly reported on Yoshida’s accounts in the 1980s and 1990s.
The paper has faced growing criticism about its coverage of comfort women, prompting the paper on Tuesday to carry two pages of feature articles looking into its previous coverage.
In April and May this year, the Asahi dispatched reporters to the island and interviewed about 40 elderly residents and concluded that Yoshida’s accounts “are false.”
As far as the present-day Korean Peninsula is concerned, the Asahi, like most mainstream Japanese historians, maintained that no hard evidence had been found to show the Japanese military was directly involved in recruiting women to the brothel system against their will.
But the Asahi, again like mainstream historians, maintained that most “comfort women” from Korea were forced to work as prostitutes against their will since they were recruited by private-sector brokers through human trafficking.
Before winning his second prime ministership in December 2012, Abe had suggested he might revise or retract the key government apology to the women, issued by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993.
But to date, Abe has upheld the Kono statement, which admitted that the Japanese authorities and military were “directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women.”
“The (Japanese) government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing, coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere,” the Kono statement reads.
Asahi admits errors in 'comfort women' stories
Japan Aug. 6, 2014 - Updated 18:00 UTC+9
Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun has retracted stories it ran on the so-called comfort women issue, saying they were based on a false account.
In its Tuesday edition, the Asahi reported the accounts of Seiji Yoshida in the 1980s and 1990s. Yoshida said he forcibly gathered women on the South Korean island of Jeju and sent them to work in wartime brothels.
The paper says it interviewed about 40 people on the island in April and May to confirm his story, but could not find any evidence to support it. It also says historians have pointed out inconsistencies in his claims. The Asahi retracted its articles based on Yoshida's comments.
It also said it confused comfort women with those who worked at factories voluntarily during the war, due to lack of research.
The Asahi says those who worked as comfort women were stripped of their freedom and dignity, and that this is the essence of the issue. It says it will continue to cover the subject based on this stance.
Ruling Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba said on Tuesday the paper's reports help form public opinion. He said it may be necessary for the Diet to look into why the Asahi made its mistakes.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Wednesday that the government is not in a position to comment on whether the Diet should discuss the Asahi's coverage of comfort women.
Suga said that he wants historical perceptions to be based on objective facts. He said the government has already made clear its stance on the issue.
989年(平成元年)4月20日木曜日 朝日新聞夕刊１面 写’８９ 地球は何色？ サンゴ汚したＫ・Ｙってだれだ
これは一体なんのつもりだろう。沖縄・八重山群島西表島の西端、崎山湾へ、 直径８メートルという巨大なアザミサンゴを撮影に行った私たちの同僚は、 この「Ｋ・Ｙ」のイニシャルを見つけたとき、しばし言葉を失った。