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Japanese Scholars urge Abe to renew ‘comfort women’ apology

Haruki Wada, historian and professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, speaks before the press with other Japanese historians in Tokyo onMonday. Japanese academics urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to renew apologies over the country's imperialist past and offer compensation to victims of its wartime brothel system, the latest in a line of interventions from scholars.
Haruki Wada, historian and professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, speaks before the press with other Japanese historians in Tokyo onMonday. Japanese academics urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to renew apologies over the country’s imperialist past and offer compensation to victims of its wartime brothel system, the latest in a line of interventions from scholars.

Nearly 200 scholars have signed a statement urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to renew apologies for the country’s imperialist past and offer to compensate former “comfort women,” victims of its wartime brothel system.

The move comes as the nationalist Abe prepares a statement he is expected to deliver in August to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It is being closely watched for any sign of backsliding on previous Japanese apologies.

The scholars included experts on Japanese and Korean history. The statement, released Monday, implores Abe to repeat his predecessors’ explicit apologies for Japanese violence.

The statement, which was also signed by dozens of journalists, lawyers and rights activists, says Abe’s announcement “must reaffirm that invasion and colonial control caused harm and pain to neighbor countries . . . and it must express renewed sentiments of regret and apology.”

It says Japan must face up officially to its responsibility for the sexual enslavement of thousands of females, an issue at the heart of the bitter enmity between Japan and South Korea, from where most of the women came.

“We emphasize (the need for a) resolution of the comfort women issue at this time, as the relationship between Japan and South Korea has been strained,” said one of the organizers, Haruki Wada, a historian and professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo. “We hope Prime Minister Abe will reflect our voices in his statement.”

Sitting prime ministers offered explicit apologies for Japan’s colonial rule and aggression on the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the war’s end, but Abe has hinted he is unlikely to repeat that — saying instead he wants to issue a “forward-looking” statement.

That sentiment has caused disquiet among Japanese liberals and anger in Beijing and Seoul, which insist Tokyo has not made amends for the war.

Japan offered an apology to the former comfort women in 1993 — the words of which remain government policy — but campaigners accuse Abe of playing down any official role in the comfort women system by the country or its military.

“A renewed effort is called for from the government of Japan” in taking steps “toward the 50 or so surviving victims,” the scholars’ statement says.

A similar statement signed by several hundred academics was publicized last month. Weeks later, 16 Japanese academic societies — including the Historical Science Society of Japan — issued a statement echoing the same sentiments.

Mainstream historians say tens of thousands of girls and women, mostly from the Korean Peninsula but also from other parts of Asia, were systematically raped by Japan’s Imperial forces in military brothels.

apanese conservatives, however, dispute the historians’ numbers and claim no official documents prove government involvement in the system. They also claim the females were common prostitutes engaged in a commercial exchange.

They have argued that memories of the survivors cannot be trusted and are highly politicized in an issue that serves as one of the main geopolitical fault lines running through East Asia.

Abe has said he stands by previous pronouncements but questions the need for Japan to repeatedly apologize for events more than seven decades ago.

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Japan’s NHK chief sorry for ‘comfort women’ comments


URL: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/japan-s-nhk-chief-sorry/975586.html

The head of Japan’s public broadcaster told lawmakers on Friday he was sorry for saying the Japanese Imperial Army’s system of wartime sex slavery was commonplace, and pledged he would safeguard the network’s neutrality.

TOKYO: The head of Japan’s public broadcaster told lawmakers on Friday he was sorry for saying the Japanese Imperial Army’s system of wartime sex slavery was commonplace, and pledged he would safeguard the network’s neutrality.

Katsuto Momii apologised for “causing trouble” when he said last weekend that the practice of forcibly drafting women into military brothels during World War II was “common in any country at war”.

Momii, who was recently appointed to head one of the world’s biggest broadcasters, blamed his inexperience for the gaffe at his inaugural press conference.

“I was not familiar with that kind of opportunity… from now on I will do my job based on the Broadcast Act,” he said.

“NHK will broadcast programmes based on the principles of political neutrality, fairness and freedom of expression that are written in the Broadcast Act. My personal view will not be reflected in programmes,” he said.

Momii, 70, was reportedly Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s choice for the influential role. Critics say his apparent willingness to cleave to the government’s position is worrying for Japan’s democracy at a time of rising nationalism.

In comments he later tried to retract, he told reporters last week that NHK’s international programmes should follow the official state line.

“We can’t say it is left if the government says it is right,” he said, adding he had the final say on the network’s output.

Momii’s appearance before a parliamentary committee came as NHK fended off accusations of interference after it told an academic not to talk about nuclear power in the run-up to the election for the post of Tokyo governor next month.

The poll is seen as a contest between a candidate backed by the pro-nuclear government, and a former premier who wants all of Japan’s reactors permanently shuttered.

Toru Nakakita, a Cambridge-educated economist and professor at Toyo University, who regularly provides commentary on an NHK radio programme, told local media he had resigned after a producer warned him to avoid the issue.

The academic said he had been planning to comment on the costs of nuclear if the risk of accidents is included, during the Thursday morning slot.

After reviewing a draft of his script, the producer asked him to steer clear of the topic for the duration of the election campaign.

The broadcaster said on Friday it had only done so because it was not able to book a pro-nuclear guest as a balance to his views.

“We asked the professor to drop the nuclear issue because we have to ensure fairness during the election campaign where nuclear power is one of the issues,” a spokeswoman for NHK told AFP.

“It’s theoretically possible for us to introduce both an anti-nuclear opinion and the opposite opinion during the campaign period, but in this case it was not possible to book an expert with the opposite view for the same programme,” she said.

Japan’s public has become nervous about nuclear power since the disaster at Fukushima, sparked by the 2011 tsunami.

Supporters say its huge economy needs the plentiful power that reactors can produce, and cannot afford to keep importing expensive fossil fuels to bridge the gap left by the shuttering of all 50 viable reactors.

– AFP/fa

Japan upset by South Korean ‘comfort women’ comics at French show

ANGOULÊME – Japan has expressed its “regret” at a South Korean exhibit at an international comic book festival in France featuring “comfort women” forced into wartime sex slavery in Japanese military brothels.Japan’s ambassador to France, Yoichi Suzuki, said he “deeply regrets that this exhibition is taking place”, saying it promoted “a mistaken point of view that further complicates relations between South Korea and Japan”.

Up to 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines and elsewhere were forced into brothels catering to the Japanese military in territories occupied by Japan during World War II, according to many mainstream historians.

Franck Bondoux, director of the Angouleme International Comics Festival in western France, told AFP that Japan had not asked for the expo to be canceled.

South Korea’s Gender Equality and Family Minister Cho yoon-sun was present at the opening of the South Korean exhibit, entitled “The Flower That Doesn’t Wilt”, on Thursday.

“The subject was proposed by the South Korean government but the artists were completely free to evoke the subject independently,” Bondoux said.

The politically-charged issue of comfort women has stoked regional tensions, with South Korea and China insisting that Japan must face up to its World War II-era sexual enslavement of women from across occupied Asia.

In a landmark 1993 statement, then-chief Japanese cabinet secretary Yohei Kono apologized to former comfort women and acknowledged Japan’s role in causing their suffering.

But in remarks in 2007 that triggered a region-wide uproar, then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said there was no evidence that Japan directly forced women to work as sex slaves.

Last week, the Japanese government distanced itself from remarks by the head of the NHK public broadcaster, who had said the Japanese Imperial Army’s system of wartime sex slavery was commonplace “in all countries during war”.

Katsuto Momii later apologized for “causing trouble” with the statement.

The French regional Sud Ouest daily newspaper received a petition, ahead of the festival’s opening, from Japanese women indignant at the South Korean exhibit.

On top of the comfort women row, the festival’s organizers shut down the booth of a Japanese association that displayed revisionist WWII content and swastika images among the comics on display.

— Agence France-Presse
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