Of Comfort Women and Anti-Japanese Sentiment in Korea

Decades since Korea was liberated from Japanese rule, there still is an extreme and very wide-spread anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea. As a Korean myself, I do have strong feelings regarding Korea-Japan relations, but usually try not to voice my opinions too loudly as it usually ends up as a flame war with Japan apologists. However, the 1000th Wednesday Protest in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul and the unveiling of a statue to commemorate the Comfort Women (which took place a month ago), got me to thinking, “what do North Americans think about this issue” when so much of Japanese culture is so widespread whereas Korea is more or less relatively unknown. After some searching, I came across a great article online in English that rebuts many of the Japan apologists’ claims that I’m about to share with everyone here.

 

1. Japan already apologized for Comfort Women.

This statement is only technically true, in a sense that the Japanese government mouthed the words of apology. For example, in 1993, in Kono Statement, Japanese government acknowledged that Imperial Japanese military was directly and indirectly involved in recruiting Comfort Women through coercion and trickery. There are several other cases in which Japanese Prime Ministers issued an apology regarding Comfort Women.

However, the point of an apology is to show a genuine change of heart and contrition. An apology is not a license for one to turn around and spit in the face of the person to whom the apology was just issued. An apology is not a credit in the moral bank account, so that one can later make a withdrawal and commit more immoral deeds. Simply mouthing the words and going through the motions are clearly inadequate for anyone with a functional moral compass. In that sense, there are several of reasons to consider the Japanese apologies to be inadequate:

a. Each apology was carefully worded to avoid any legal liability

If you did something bad, you should be ready to accept all consequences, moral and legal. You have to say the right thing and do the right thing also. If you say the right things but fail to do the right things, the words are meaningless and hollow. That is how each one of Japan’s apologies on Comfort Women has been structured. Reading carefully, most of the apologies usually say: “We are sorry this bad thing happened to you,” without discussing that it was the Imperial Japan that caused that bad thing. Each one of Japan’s apologies regarding Comfort Women was designed for Japan to evade legal responsibility while attempting to absolve its moral responsibility. But morality does not work that way. Even a child would know this.

b. Subsequent Japanese administrations sought to whitewash the Comfort Women issue

Japan’s apologies — particularly those made in the 1990s, which had greater specificity about its direct responsibility — was not a result of a nationwide reflection and contrition by Japan. It was issued by an unusually liberal Japanese government, which had a tenuous hold on power. When the conservative block of the Liberal Democratic Party came back in power, the Japanese government quickly displayed the insincerity of its stance on the Comfort Women issue.

In 2007, a group of 120 LDP members sought to water down Kono Statement. Nakayama Nariaki, the leader of that group, said: “Some say it is useful to compare the brothels to college cafeterias run by private companies, who recruit their own staff, procure foodstuffs and set prices.

Also in 2007, LDP Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (a grandson of a man suspected to be a class-A war criminal, Kishi Nobusuke,) denied that the Imperial Japanese military recruited Comfort Women. Abe only backed off after a stern warning from the U.S. ambassador. Another former Prime Minister, Nakasone Yasuhiro, also denied that the Comfort Women were forcibly recruited. Further, former education minister Nariaki Nakayama declared he was proud that the LDP had succeeded in getting references to “wartime sex slaves” struck from most authorized history texts for junior high schools. Nakayama further said: “It could be said that the occupation was something they could have pride in, given their existence soothed distraught feelings of men in the battlefield and provided a certain respite and order.”

(Take a break here, let that last statement sink in for a bit, and appreciate the level of depravity required to make that statement.)

Again, back to the overriding point: an apology is meaningless when it is mere words mouthed as a formality. Because the subsequent leaders of the Japanese government were ready to go back on its stance on Comfort Women just as soon as the administration changed, there are real reasons to doubt the sincerity of Japan’s contrition over Comfort Women.

For full article, click here

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