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Japanese Try to Stop Free Speech in New York

May 11, 2012

Survivor Gil Won Ok was one of the up to 200,000 women who suffered at the hands of the Japanese army, and continue to suffer by the Japanese refusal to deal with its war crimes. The Japanese cited in this article take the position that she and others are lying, a position for which there is no evidence. Source: Amnesty International.

The New York Times owned company, the International Herald Tribune, posted a recent story called Comfort Women Controversy Comes to New York (see here). There are two issues at play here. The first is the Japanese denial of the use of forced sexual slavery by the Japanese army in WWII. The second is the right of Koreans – or any other – to protest those actions by using a memorial as a symbol of free speech. Its reporting calls into question its commitment to objectivity.

It is historical fact that the Japanese armies not only forced Korean, Filipino and Chinese women to have sex with Japanese soldiers, but that the Japanese in some cases executed the female victims after being raped repeatedly by upwards of dozens of soldiers – sometimes in just one day. The number of female sex slaves may be disputed, but the actions of the Japanese are not – except by apologists. The number of victims is as high as 200,000, and “the majority of women were under the age of 20 and some were girls as young as 12,” said Amnesty International, a human rights organisation that has written about this problem in the past. These were horrendous crimes by any standard (see here).

The IHT gave voice to a war crimes denier when it published the following words without comment: ““the term ‘comfort women’ refers simply to prostitutes in wartime.” This sort of slander by the Japanese supporter not only denies the Japanese atrocities, but actually calls them “prostitutes,” saying it was they and not the Japanese who sought sex. There may have been a small number of real prostitutes, but to claim the majority or even all the Koreans willing had sex with hundreds of Japanese men for money is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

Those who posit that all of the comfort women were happily complicit and acting of their own accord simply do not understand the meaning of the word rape,” said Tom Lantos to the BBC in an article published in 2007, then chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Rape is rape. Not according to certain deniers in Japan who are trying to force their warped view of history on Americans with their nonsense propaganda. Why did the IHT not address the historical denials properly? The BBC did in a 2007 article, and it was not alone (see here).

The IHT went further when its article appeared to misrepresent the facts surrounding the Japanese apology: “while Japan has apologized for any mistreatment the women suffered…” What apology? One can understand (but not excuse) why the Japanese have historical amnesia, but the IHT? Even as late as 2007 the US House of Representatives passed a resolution asking for the Japanese to issue a formal apology for its war crimes it committed against up to 200,000 civilian women and girls. There has been a lot of pressure to get Japan to admit to and really apologise for its crimes.

One is at a loss to know what apology the IHT referred to. Perhaps it alluded to the 1993 apology that only acknowledged “its involvement managing the brothels” butwas never approved by parliament.” Some apology that was. Or perhaps it referred to the words of former prime ministers. If so it is nothing more than a word game of “regrettable” or “sympathy” or other comments that never acknowledged Japan’s full role in the sex slavery business or its legal responsibility to the victims (see here). Such word games only insult the victims and create resentment against the Japanese, but they explain why there are still protests to this day, almost 70 years after the end of the war.

“A 1998 report by the U.N. Human Rights Committee on this issue noted that although Japan has made individual apologies the Japanese Government denies legal liability for the creation and maintenance of the system of ‘comfort stations’ and comfort women used during World War II,” said Amnesty (see here). That was in 2009. Women are still waiting for a real apology that accepts legal responsibility. Japan has no intention of doing it. Instead Japan has rejected most compensation claims, saying they were settled by treaties.” The victims do not agree the matter was settled at all. These women want justice.

The IHT article barely touched on the dwindling number of women, now in the eighties, hoping to receive a real apology before they die. The IHT said: “In December, two Korean women who said they were forced into prostitution by Japan visited the monument” (my emphasis). Look at the wording. Could not the IHT verify if the women were telling the truth? Yes, they “said” they had been raped by Japanese soldiers, but is there any reason to doubt their claims? There are ways to verify the women’s claims, as there are lists of survivors.

What the IHT also did, interestingly enough, was to say: “One Japanese opponent of the proposed New York monument wrote in a letter… (my emphasis).” Yes, the Korean women “said” (possibly implying they were not telling the truth) and the Japanese man “wrote” the women were “prostitutes” (which could be construed to say the IHT questioned his claims, but could also be read to say they did not). Why are the two being given equal weight sort of balanced against each other? This is a cut and dry case. The Japanese systemically used hundreds of thousands of women as sex slaves. The surviving Koreans are not all unknown. The IHT has the resources to assign a reporter to know if the women it interviewed were victims , does it not?

At least 63 Korea survivors were alive in January 2012, and of that number 2 – named  Gil Won-ok and Kim Bok-dong – demonstrate outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul as often as they can to demand recognition for the crimes the Japanese committed against them (see article here). The Korean Times was able to verify those women had been raped, for it stated: “The two were among 63 surviving Korean women who were forced into sexual servitude at frontline Japanese brothels during World War II” (my emphasis). “Who were forced” does not imply the women’s story lacks accuracy. The Korean Times did its job. Why could the IHT not state definitively if the women it interviewed were really victims or not?

Is this just lazy reporting on the IHT’s part of something more sinister? Well, the IHT chose to publish the comments of a Japanese who considers the victims “prostitutes” – a direct quote. The Japanese man in entitled to his opinion, but  it was not qualified. Can the IHT editors really claim this article is objective reporting?

To the question of free speech. Just as the Japanese have decided to hide their war guilt by denying and covering over the facts (which is protected by free speech), Koreans in New York are choosing to highlight the past by taking advantage of free speech to tell the truth by renaming a street sign that acknowledges the suffering of female victims of Japanese aggression. Why would anyone in Japan protest this? The Japanese routinely deny their crimes against all the Asian nations they conquered; it is nothing new.

The Japanese writer claimed Peter Koo, New York City Councilman, was misrepresenting the facts about Japan just to be reelected. Regardless of his or the other council members reasons for wanting a new memorial in New York, it ignores the fact there are Koreans and Chinese (Koo is from Hong Kong, not Korea) who want the truth to be told, and that there are Japanese who are actively trying to stop Americans right to free speech. The IHT article essentially said four officials in the Japanese LDP party tried to  bribe the Koreans into shutting their mouths. They offered “to fund youth programs, donate books on Japanese culture and plant cherry blossom trees in the town, if the [current] monument were removed [from Palisades Park, N.J.]”

These Japanese – and not all Japanese deny the historical facts; there are some brave filmmakers, historians and politicians who do speak the truth – want to remove the current monument and prevent a new one from being installed. If German Holocaust deniers protested Holocaust memorials and demanded German propaganda in its place, how would the IHT report on that? The IHT would no doubt denounce them for what they are. No one is saying the Korean sex slavery was the same as the German crimes, but the point is that it shows how extreme these Japanese are. Why did the IHT not directly call a spade a spade on these Japanese?

And extreme is not sufficiently strong to express the Japanese position. These four officials denied historical fact by saying “there is no proof sex slaves existed” and claimed the monument “portrayed historical inaccuracies.” How is the monument inaccurate? One could be sure those “youth programs” would do absolutely nothing to expose the truth about Japanese war crimes, and might serve as a propaganda tool similar to what is used in Japanese schools to erase the past. A monument to victims of Japanese aggression would become a direct insult to them. Can anyone wonder why the Chinese and Koreans protest the Japanese every time they play games with their “apologies?” This is some mystery the American newspapers might get around to solving one day.

One might remember how often the Japanese demand an apology from the US over the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were unique and terrible atrocities for which US should consider apologising. But it is not a little bit hypocritical to ask for an apology and be, at the same time, unable to give one for the millions of victims of Japan’s wars of aggression in which historians, including Herbert Bix, a Harvard, Pulitzer prize winning historian, put a conservative estimate of the numbers of Chinese murdered (civilians) by the Japanese Imperial Army at between 10 to 13 million.The message is clear: Japan is special and should be treated differently.

The women cited in this article are not liars and have nothing to gain by standing outside and protesting for decades. The Japanese have something to gain, and it has to do with saving face and money. Why do newspapers like IHT not call the Japanese Holocaust deniers out for what they are? Might it be thery are cowards? There is evidence to suggest this is the case, a question which will be considered in part II.

Civis Journal

Daily News article on topic here

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