Foreign Correspondents Ask about “Comfort Women”
answered by Fujioka Nobukatsu
Heated Q&A Session follows Professor Fujioka’s Talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club
In the Q & A session, English was used by questioners and Japanese by Professor Fujioka for answers. The questions are unchanged from the original. Certain revisions have been made in the English translated replies for greater clarity.
Question 1 (Gebhard Hielscher, Sudduetsche Zeitung) :
You say there’s no evidence of foreign women having been forced into prostitution, and use as a case one particular incident. I have not checked out Mr. Yoshida’s village, so if that case is right or wrong, I don’t know, but there’s plenty of other villages, where it has been established that many women were actually tricked or forced from villages into service for the Japanese, which turned out to be prostitution, which they didn’t know when they were taken from their village as young girls, not as prostitutes.
I’ve talked to several of them myself already many years ago at a seminar in Shizuoka, where some of them were there. There have been later cases. There’s no question that many of these cases exist, so I find it strange how you can make a statement, that there’s no evidence. There’s plenty of evidence. If you don’t want to recognize it, that’s your problem, not a problem of history.
When you then say the Japanese didn’t commit any worse crimes than anybody else, that may be so, but you think that, for instance, if you drive faster than the drive limit allows, and the police stops you, and you say, well, there were others who also drove faster, that will save you from punishment? That is, what I’m trying to say is you have to handle your own problems, others will have to handle theirs.
For instance, you didn’t even mention the statement by the government, Mr. Kono, when he was government spokesman for the Miyazawa government at the end. He made a official statement, the government was in fact through the army involved in prostitution. How can you make such a statement that there’s no evidence without even referring to the government acknowledgement of it? I find it very strange, and I find it particularly strange from someone who calls himself an academic.
Answer 1 (Fujioka) :
Thank you for your very straightforward question.
I believe that the questions that you have just posed need to be placed on the table when we talk about “military comfort women”.
There were three points in your question.
First of all, you have no objections about what I have just mentioned about the testimony by Mr. Yoshida.
However, I should emphasize that comfort women became a serious issue only after almost ten years after Mr. Yoshida’s book got published, in 1983. “Comfort women” were never mentioned before that time.
I mentioned Professor Hata’s field trip. I should emphasize that even before his research trip, a Korean reporter studied it on her own initiative and had reached the conclusion that such a thing had not occurred, that Mr. Yoshida’s story about the Japanese army kidnapping Korean women and forcing them into prostitution was totally fictitious. This was the conclusion of a Korean reporter, working for a Korean newspaper.
The reason why the reporter started delving into this topic was that she had read the Korean translated version of Yoshida Seiji’s book about the forced transport of Korean women, described very vividly. The translation came out in 1989. The reporter is from the area of Chuje island, where the kidnapping supposedly took place. She was absolutely amazed, and she started asking senior villagers and local historians. The result was they all denied that there had been such acts.
So I would like you to understand that the testimony of Mr. Yoshida was in fact the starting point of this big issue. This is not one of the later “testimonies”, but the very decisive “testimony” that was the starting point of the whole issue.
Now please use your common sense. If truly there had been acts of kidnapping Korean women, numbering over 10,000, by the former Japanese army, if these ladies had been truly forced into trucks, and carried away to war zones to work as sex slaves, why didn’t the Korean people resist, even though it was war-time?
Believing such a story amounts to insult to the fathers and mothers of Korean young women.
It is possible to argue that during the war, people were not able to protest because Japan controlled Korea. But what about after the war? After the war, Japan was criticized in many ways for various behavior during the war. Some of these criticisms were natural consequences and rightfully made. However, was Japan ever criticized at that time, even once, for forcing women into becoming comfort women? Never.
In 1965, a normalization treaty called Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea was concluded, and agreements were made on, for example, giving up Japanese assets in Korea. All kinds of war-related issues were brought up and hard negotiations were made. If there had been acts as inhuman as forcing women into prostitution, Korea would certainly have taken it up. It would necessitate an immediate apology from Japan, and an even greater sum of reparation. During the whole course of bilateral negotiations, this issue was not once taken up.
The “testimonies” you mention have all appeared after the publication of Mr.Yoshida’s story, after which the “comfort women” issue began to take shape. What I’m saying is I do not doubt the ladies had worked as prostitutes in war zone, but there is no evidence that they were forced into prostitution by the Japanese army.
Let me answer the second question, on war crimes. I’m in total agreement that one cannot rationalize a speed limit violation just because another guy has also committed a speed limit violation. The important thing is the nature and the degree of war crimes committed by Japan. For these crimes, Japan has already completed ample indemnity and apologies.
Thirdly, I’d like to talk about the statement made by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, during the Miyazawa administration. It pains me as a Japanese citizen to say this, but I believe that our government often loses its function as a normal, independent, autonomous entity.
Mr.Kono’s statement is such an example. If the Japanese government had carried out an extensive study, surely there would have been numerous witnesses to testify about forced transport of women. The government did nothing of the sort. All it did was to go to locations pre-designated by former comfort women, and listen only to their stories. The government did not bother to cross-check their stories.
There is absolutely no public document, or any other evidence, that even hints at the possibility that the military took away Korean women, and forced them into prostitution.
Nevertheless, despite all these facts, Mr. Kono made an announcement, in ambiguous words, which can be interpreted to mean the government acknowledges that the army enforced Korean women into prostitution. This lamentable incident has greatly hurt the honor and dignity of the Japanese people. The Japanese government has bowed to the pressure of the Korean government and other activist groups to issue a statement without verifying the facts. It’s a very complex issue and I could talk on and on, but I would like to stop here.
Question 2 (Peter McGill, Asahi Evening News) :
First of all you said Japan has profoundly apologized and paid for its war crimes. That is so, such nonsense, that is almost laughable. If it’s true, then there really wouldn’t be a problem. We all know it’s a major problem around the world. Japan has not profoundly apologized for it, and certainly not paid for it. I mean, I really can’t understand how a professor of any university, let alone Todai, can make such a preposterous statement, as you have today before this gathering.
I have two questions.
First is what you say about national honor. That sort of thing usually goes together with concern about national security. Now, you haven’t mentioned national security, but I naturally assume that you believe it should be re-doubled and strengthened and all those kind of things.
What about the alternative proposition that people such as yourself, the so-called revisionists, who say that Japan has nothing to apologize for and really didn’t do anything wrong, are in fact enemies of Japan’s national security, because they are largely responsible for the ideas they espouse, create such suspicion and distrust of Japan around the world. The major reason why Japan has so few friends anywhere in the world, because people just don’t trust a nation that behaves and says things like that. You’re actually damaging very profoundly the national security of your country. What do you think about that?
My second question is, I’m sure you don’t intend this, but you’ve become a hero of right-wing thugs of this country, the people who threaten publishers, who have resorted to violence and murder, not just in the 1930’s, but in the far more recent past in Japan, and they treat you like an intellectual hero. Of course, they’re the enemies of free speech, they’re the enemies of democracy.
I mean, they… How can one describe them? I was wondering, how you find that compatible with, you know, being the professor of Japan’s leading university, paid for by all of us taxpayers. You know, you’re actually a civil servant. Todai is supposed to be, you know, the citadel of freedom and free speech. Yet you’re being idolized by people who believe in the opposite, who want to end free speech, who threaten people who don’t agree with you.
Answer 2 (Fujioka) :
First of all, there is absolutely no truth to the fact that I am denying all war crimes committed by Japan. What I am saying is that Japan’s war crimes have been no worse than war crimes committed by other countries. Today’s topic is about the accusation that the Japanese army took women away and forced them to become prostitutes. This accusation is totally unjustified. The Japanese army never did a thing like that. Why does my denial on this particular point leads you to the conclusion that I am denying all Japanese war crimes? Your question is illogical and misleading.
You also say that such a denial makes the position of Japan a bad one, one without friends.
Actually, the opposite is true. End of last year, President Ziang Zemin of China visited Japan. He demanded written apologies from the Japanese government, which Japan refused. Afterwards, The London Economist commented that the Japanese government did a good thing for the world. Why? Because The London Economist said the boss of a communist party, which has killed tens of millions of its own people, is not qualified to attack something that happened more than 50 years ago. They called it “stomach churning”.
It is true that arguments like yours exist, and it is a handy one for attacking Japan. However, the world does not necessarily agree with you. We need to look at things in a balanced way. I believe that time has come to stop endless apologies, but rather distinguish between right and wrong, and deal with issues in a well-balanced manner. I believe that today’s world appreciates more a Japanese who can deal with matters rationally and resolutely.
You mention that I am supported by the right wing, who threaten publishers. I have nothing to do with such people. I do not believe in such acts, and when you criticize me in such a way, you should provide evidence. I’m positively against such behavior. For example, there have been acts by right wings, who cut the screen of a film they didn’t like. I think this is very foolish behavior, and it has exactly a reverse effect. I believe in freedom, democracy, and protection of free speech, and which are pre- conditions for Japanese society to advance, and that includes history education.
You are calling me the hero of such rightists. Is there any data about this? However I can speculate on the reasons. I think these people are not seriously thinking about historical issues, or they have reverse intentions. In Japan, we have a phrase, “homegoroshi”, or “praise someone to kill him” It is in fact possible to do this. You praise someone so high, that people will have an opposite reaction to that praise. Politically, it is a very simple method. I hope you honorable reporters will not be fooled by it.
Question 3 (A. Horvat, Tokyo resident) :
In 1989, the well-known British sociologist Ronald Dore gave a talk at this club, and he was also asked at that time about the comfort women controversy. He made the following rather prescient suggestion, and that is that “wouldn’t it be great if the Japanese government would hand over this subject to an impartial body of foreign historians, which might be acceptable to all sides, and to ask them to look into details from an impartial third-party point of view, and come back with a report.
Professor Dore suggested there had been several German companies that had done the same thing, and had opened their files about the abuses which they were accused of doing during World War II.
A number of these companies had accepted the reports, and have abided by them and considered them part of their corporate history. I’m wondering if your group would be interested in having such a body set up, and whether you would be willing to abide by the conclusions of an international group of historians?
Answer 3 (Fujioka) :
Thank you for your very constructive opinion. Your suggest that the Japanese government hand over research to a third foreign party.
The presumption here is that the Japanese government would make efforts to arrive at a conclusion that benefits national interest, as much as possible. However, as Mr. Kono’s statement shows, the reverse is the case. Even today, there is no authoritative body in this country making the effort to pursue the truth. Because of this fact, I believe that, first of all, the Japanese government should terminate Mr. Kono’s unfounded statement, and start research on facts. Nothing will start without such a vital process. Of course, if an international organ or a group of scholars could be set up, with their neutrality and fairness guaranteed, I think that would be wonderful.
However, the way things are now, the Japanese government should utilize all its facilities and ability to carry out an investigation. For example, there are many people in Korea who lived through the same time period as when the supposed kidnapping took place. The government should ask these people what they know. I believe that such an investigation will reveal how fabricated the story is. So far the government has done nothing of the sort.
A governmental investigation should precede others, and when arguments from both sides are on the table, if international scholars investigate the matter further, from such a foundation, I think it could be a very fair process, to solve the matter conclusively.
Question 4 (Kang, Life and Dream Publishing Company, South Korea) :
My English is maybe not good enough, but I’ll try to speak in English. We have basic difference, between you and me, between us, because you think there was no military comfort women, especially compulsory military comfort women. I and we think there are. I’ve so many things I can argue with you, but I’m afraid we have not enough time today. For instance, let me say a couple of things.
You say why Korean government did not act aggressively, I noticed. Why Korean peoples did not protest , when their daughter was dragged, I know the answer. If you like to know the reason for all of these, I’m willing to supply you the reason. I’m a free man. Maybe it will help you to your study. But today, I’d like to ask you, you are strongly working to delete this military comfort women clause in history book. Maybe you are ? in Japan. But how about have you ever thought of it globally, or of the same issues in other countries ? I’m saying students, when Japanese students, I should say your purification movement, they may think eventually there was no military comfort women, but the other countries, they will have more and more, this movement, will be progressed. Don’t you think there is this big gap between the young people of Japan and other countries will make a serious problem?
Second question. Well, you can answer or not, you are free. More than one million Japanese young and strong soldiers went out to the front line. How do you think they solved their sexual appetite or sexual problem? You mentioned that mostly there were prostitutes. You think Japan had enough prostitutes to meet the demand of more than one million strong and young soldiers? Thank you.
Answer 4 (Fujioka) :
I’m not sure whether you are stating an opinion, or a question.
You say you have answers about why the Koreans did not oppose or criticize the Japanese. I can guess at your answers that you wish to give me, but since you are not making a public comment about it, I will not comment on it here.
You ask me whether I am considering this issue from a global viewpoint, and my answer is that of course I am considering it from a global, international viewpoint.
Judging the matter against international standards, I believe that the Japanese army did not take away unwilling women to force them into prostitution. However, I do imagine that during the war, there were war crimes committed by Japan. However, such war crimes, if they occurred, should be treated under the same standards as war crimes committed by other countries.
However, at the moment, Japan is being singled out for this issue. False information is being disseminated throughout the world under particular political intentions. I would like to remind you that the information is based on a false testimony, and an apology of the Japanese government, made without proper investigation. I intend to continue with my effort to erase the bad image that has been propagated throughout the world.
As for answering the sexual needs of one million soldiers, this kind of problem has existed for all armies of all countries. When Korea fought in the Vietnam War, the same problem surfaced. So my point is that surely the same international standard should be applied to discuss this issue.