How Japan Manages to Hang Tough in History Debates with Korea & China


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This is a cross-post of an essay that went up today at the Lowy Interpreter.

I was wondering why it is that Japan seems to be able to duck-and-weave on thorny East Asian history questions, when these are settled in just about the rest of the world? Even the Japanese left admits the nasty stuff the Empire did, so how is it the right hangs on in denial?

Some of it, to be sure, is domestic politics. The uyoku dentai certainly keep up the pressure on Abe & co. to give up nothing. And my own experience with them on Twitter has lead me to block them a lot, because they’re so visceral and racist: ‘Koreans are immoral’ and so on. But they’re no more than a few hundred thousand people at most, out out 126 million Japanese total.

The IR academic in me instinctively looks to foreign pressures, and here one can really see how the Chinese Communist Party’s appalling history toward its own people conveniently lets the Empire off the hook. The CCP will lose a ‘who was worse to the Chinese people than who’ contest with the Empire. Similarly, the ROK’s instrumentalization of the relationship with Japan for national identity-building purposes allows the Japanese right to stonewall, the logic being ‘Korea will never stop demanding apologies, so there’s no point engaging them anyway.’ As usual, it’s a tangle.

The essay follows the jump:

In my last essay for the Interpreter, I argued that Japan needs at some point to come around on the history questions that divide it so sharply from South Korea and China. I argued that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his coalition persist in interpretations of the empire and the war that are accepted nowhere outside Japanese conservative circles. Brutalities such as Unit 731, the Rape of Nanking, and the comfort women are established fact in historiography everywhere else in the world. Normatively and empirically, the Japanese right will never win Asia’s ‘history wars.’ At some point it would help enormously if Tokyo would just admit what the rest of the world already knows anyway. The whole thing is fairly fatiguing, not to mention immoral.

But I received a number responses from Japan-watchers noting that despite all the moral pressure, the US arm-twisting for rapprochement, and the enormous light on the subject right now, including both the 50th anniversary of Japan-Korea diplomatic normalization and the 70th anniversary of the war’s end this summer, Japan has given rather little. Why so?

China

Regarding China, geopolitics enables obfuscation. China is authoritarian oligarchy which opportunistically manipulates the Japanese invasion for political legitimacy. Sadly, Japanese behavior in China was probably the most appalling in the entire empire, but the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) authoritarianism and its own historical myopia – Mao is responsible for far more Chinese deaths than the empire was – basically lets Japan slip off the hook. Of course Japan should be honest about its record, but so long as China is not a democracy and so obviously lies about its own history, then the political pressure on Japan is considerably blunted. Certainly the Americans, for example, will not push Japan over this. The same applies – probably even more so – to North Korea.

South Korea

South Korea is a far tougher case, because it is a democracy. It can therefore claim a moral and normative legitimacy in its calls for restitution which China cannot. But here too, Abe has proven surprisingly recalcitrant for several reasons:

1. Geopolitics: South Korea is simply not as important to the United States as Japan, so there are limits to how far the US will push Tokyo. And so long as the US provides strategic security to both, Japan is shielded from regional pressure on its unwillingness to move. (In the same way, the US alliance also enables Korea’s Japan maximalists.) I have called this ‘moral hazard’ elsewhere.

2. Park Geun-Hye’s Flailing Presidency: Park is very unpopular. After multiple scandals and public safety disasters, her approval rating is around 30%. She is desperate for some kind of victory to turn around the incompetency narrative surrounding her presidency. This has weakened her hand; Seoul’s sudden climb-down on its opposition to Japan’s recent UNESCO bid looks suspiciously like a concession to get a rumored comfort women deal.

3. Exaggeration: Korean critics of Japan often compare the imperial occupation of the peninsula to the Holocaust. I think this parallelism is deployed, because it carries so much weight before a Western audience and implies that a Willy Brandt-style, on-your-knees apology from Japan is the appropriate outcome. It is up to Koreans to decide what kind of apology they will accept, but I wonder if Koreans actually realize just how ‘eliminationist’ the Nazi Neuordnung was, particularly toward the Jews, Poles, and Russians.

The Japanese Empire intended to absorb Koreans as something like sub-Japanese second-class citizens. Hence the ‘cultural replacement’ efforts, such as forcing Japanese language instruction and insisting on Japanese names. By contrast, the Nazis intended to exterminate peoples wholesale, by the millions. There were no death camps in Korea.

A better, if far less evocative, analogy might be English control of the Celtic fringe in the British Isles, especially Ireland. There, a far longer period of colonial control did indeed significantly eliminate the original language (Gaelic), anglicize much of the population, and lead to so much socio-political assimilation that Irish ironically went out into the further Empire as imperial representatives. Like Japan in Korea, there were both collaborators and brutalities, most notably the insistence on food exports during the Great Famine, but these were not deliberate, planned exterminations.

4. Politicization: Elsewhere I have argued that South Korea’s legitimacy needs fire a politicization of the colonial period. My critics reject the notion that South Korean ‘anti-Japanism’ is driven by anything other than legitimate objections to Japanese behavior from 1910-45. Several data-points suggest this is not so, all of which make it easier for Japanese conservatives to muddy the waters by claiming that “South Korea demonizes Japan beyond reason” (as I heard a Japanese scholar say at a conference once):

a. North Korea does not fixate on Japan the way South Korea does. The primary objects of North Korean enemy propaganda are the ‘Yankee Colony’ South Korea and the United States. Japan is a surely villain but mostly serves as a foil to demonstrate Kim Il Sung’s early heroics and nationalist commitment. If anti-Japanism were a deep, Korea-wide sentiment, surely the North would use it more for legitimacy’s sake, instead of the far-away Americans, or the preposterously mystical ‘Baekdu bloodline.’

b. Dokdo military drills. Japan and South Korea are US allies. A war between them is unthinkable; indeed, given that US commanders are strew throughout the defense structures of both, it would be nearly impossible for each to seriously fight the other. Were a conflict to break-out between them, the US would likely leave the region, an eventuality no decision-maker in Seoul or Tokyo would risk. Yet the Seoul nevertheless annually runs military exercises around the islets, such as test flights of combat aircraft or amphibious landings. These could be called off with no detriment to Korean security – because of the mutual US alliances – nor reduction in the sovereignty claim to Dokdo – because Korean police, fishermen, and tourists would still be present. In short, the exercises serve political rather than military goals.

c. The Sea of Japan re-naming campaign. This appears almost purposefully antagonistic and political. One can certainly understand how the body of water to the east of Korea would be the ‘East Sea’ in Korean – just as Germans refer to the Baltic Sea in German as the ‘East Sea’ too. But why should such a non-descript name – there are many places ‘east’ of the other places – be a new global standard? Should the Indian Ocean be renamed for Sri Lankans? Should the Arabian Sea be renamed for Pakistanis? If the Sea of Japan becomes the East Sea, should the Korea Strait be renamed the South Strait, as the Japanese will almost certainly insist?

d. Ethnic Korean lobbying against Japan inside the United States. Ethnic Korean-American lobbying has brought comfort women memorials and the ‘East Sea’ to the United States. This is marketed in South Korea as spreading global concern over Japanese recalcitrance, when in fact, these are the outcome of concentrated Korean-American interest group politics in the US with strong support back home. This is South Korea competing to negatively define Japan to the United States, even though Japan is a US ally.

Each of these actions make sense within the framework I provided in my earlier Lowy essays – that Japan acts as a national identity other against which South Korea constructs its political self. Each has an obvious political-theatrical element that does not advance the cause of Japanese softening on Korea’s concerns. Rather, each clearly provokes Japan the other way, to stiffen its spine and hang tough as Abe has done – a point I have heard from many Japanese colleagues and friends over the years.

The Korean, and Chinese, moral positions on the war and empire are correct. But a great deal of politics has enabled surprising Japanese recalcitrance. While no one expects moderation from the CCP, South Korea might smooth the path by rolling back some of its most maximal positions, such as points 3 and 4 above. None directly impact South Korean security or growth. All would strip the political cover from Japanese conservatives who claim ‘Korea fatigue’ as cause to reject concessions.

43 thoughts on “How Japan Manages to Hang Tough in History Debates with Korea & China

  1. I think the paragraph ‘3. exaggeration’ is definitely exaggeration.
    sub-japanization(“forcing Japanese language instruction and insisting on Japanese”, etc.)had started in the late 1930s, when the Japanese military was suffering from the lack of human resources for attacking Manchuria. so they planted an idea that all korean have to fight for the Japanese empire in the colonists’ mind. of a truth, the existence of MARUTA(like a haman marmotte), a compulsory manpower draft or enforced sex slaves proves their intention.
    about 35 years or far more, Japanese imperialism had plundered the korean Peninsula, and That is ultimately what colony means. ‘Being robbed’

    • Er, no the author is right on the money.

      Just look at the data. Korea was the poorest country in Asia (of those with data) in terms of per capita GDP in 1820, 1870, and 1911. After Japan’s annexation, per capita GDP, life expectancy, and total population all grew to almost 2x. And Korea’s per capita GDP grew to be higher than China or India.

      For global GDP comparison the best work we have is the late Angus Maddison’s work. This is the data that the Economist magazine relies upon. Click on Maddison Project Database for per capita GDP:
      http://www.ggdc.net/maddison/maddison-project/home.htm

      The idea of Japanese imperialism plundering Korea makes no sense when it was dirt poor to begin with. Japan’s annexation in terms of all objective data points to benefiting Korea. That’s why before the start of conscription of Korean soldiers in 1944, there were hundreds of thousands of volunteers.

      By the way no Korean draftee actually went to the front lines because they were still undergoing training. Also there were no Korean civilians captured for Unit 731 experiments, go read the US government report on Japanese atrocities here http://www.archives.gov/iwg/japanese-war-crimes/select-documents.pdf and here http://www.archives.gov/iwg/japanese-war-crimes/introductory-essays.pdf The people who got screwed by Unit 731 were Chinese, US prisoners, and Russians, not the Koreans who were on Japan’s side during WW2.

      And finally there were no enforced sex slaves from Korea. Comfort women from Korea were mostly tricked by Korean and Japanese pimps or sold into prostitution by their families as far as we know. The US government report above recognizes their suffering but it also says that the number of comfort women from Korea is likely exaggerated and that coercion by the Japanese government in Korea of the comfort women was probably nonexistent through its omission (if it happened it would have been written in pg49 of the introductory essay since that’s the whole point of the report). You should read Sarah Soh’s book The Comfort Women: Sexual Violence and Postcolonial Memory in Korea and Japan, chapters 2 and 3 on this issue.

      Anyway, the above was a long winded introduction to the best analogy I can think of, in terms of what happened to Korea in the early 20th century. And that is the PRC’s takeover of Tibet in 1950.

      The PRC has undoubtedly eliminated the feudal remnants of Tibetan society, raised the living standards of ordinary Tibetans, raised life expectancy, and increased total population of Tibetans since its take over. This makes sense because Tibet was annexed just like Korea was annexed to Japan.

      However, that does not lower the anguish of the Tibetans in having their culture being destroyed, Mandarin being taught in their schools, their leaders being stooges of Beijing, and Tibetan Buddhist monks and leaders being oppressed. And I deeply sympathize with them. That’s the analogue to what was going on in the Korean peninsula back then.

      In other words I agree that just because an empire fills a person’s belly and makes that person’s life longer (“objectively better”) that doesn’t justify taking that person’s pride and identity (something that can’t be measured by objective yardsticks).

      Now, making a person’s belly full might make many Koreans back then and many Tibetans today happy to serve their masters. And I can see that too, but that’s that person’s view. I just happen to disagree.

      So if Korean nationalists stop their exaggeration, a lot of Japanese might also also sympathize with what happened in Korea considering the popularity of the pro-Tibet movement in Japan. Being able to acknowledge the truth can only help.

      • 1.
        Well, GDP concept means gross domestic ‘product’, and is equal to gross domestic consumption in Economics. But it seems that the assumption does not apply to the case of colonies.
        As you know an uplift in GDP is completely irrelevant to equitable distribution. Though total production is may rising, that flowed out of the country, especially went to Japan or to the occupied territory by Japan.
        On the other hand, Japanese landowner had squeezed proceeds out of their tenant farmer. During the Japanese colonial period the ratio of korean small-scale landed farmer dropped off sharply and that of the peasants soared. (Refer to document of Chosun government-general and Korean Empire government)
        Despite all visible outcome, There is no doubt most of Korean public had suffered in colonial times. Even in the matters of household living.
        As you mentioned, the average length of life and the population of the people in Korean peninsula had increased according to collected data. But Korean ethnohistorian thinks that this figure is affected by a growing number of Japanese migrant, from 170 thousand in 1920 to 700 thousand in 1944.

        2.
        The presented sources are too long and difficult to understand. I’ll grateful if you pointed out exactly which part is supporting your opinion.
        Here are some references I’ve found in terms of enforced sex slaves.

        http://www.exordio.com/1939-1945/codex/Documentos/report-49-USA-orig.html


        (the statement of witness)

        You know, since Korea was the nearest country totally occupied by Japanese Empire, It is less possible that the historical sources indicating damages of the colony have been remained..
        Be that as it may, it’s not appropriate to use only one-sided information(something like japanese documents) in reconstructing the past criminal fact.
        Because we can not entirely exclude the possibility of concealing or manipulating related data, and that’s why we’ve to pay more attention to the victim’s description of what happened.

        3.
        Well I also want to emphasize ‘a forced manpower draft to overseas’.. For example, like HASIMA coal mine, a lot of korean(+chinese) draftees were forced to work at least 12 hours a day.
        To most of korean it was like the ‘offshore Auschwitz’.
        So japan’s facilities being designated as world cultural heritage have become the problem raising controversy of late..
        In this case, ICOMOS recommended to Japan government that ‘We should let the public to understand the whole story of history.’
        This comment shows that Japan can be proud of a success in industrial revolution, but must remember the following invasion and exploitation.

        Anyway, I think Japan has become one of the most advanced country in the world today, socially and economically.
        Just speaking some of my thoughts, as the member of fellowship of East Asian nations, We should make a sort of common perception of the experience of the recent past.
        and.. There must be some reasons that neighboring states are claiming with one voice.

          • 1 Korean economy under colonial rule
            If Japan had sucked Korea dry, then Korea would not have grown economically. Dutch rule in Indonesia until 1901 and British rule in India was based on that model of economically exploiting the colonies. This is why the per capital GDP of India and Indonesia remained low (around $533-618 for India between 1870 and 1947 and $507-548 for Java between 1815 and 1879, $665-716 for Indonesia between 1880 and 1901). But in colonies where you don’t have that policy such as Philippines under American rule or Korea under Japanese rule you see rapid increase in the GDP (from $673 to $1507 between 1902 and 1940 for Philippines, and from $455 to $893 between 1911 and 1941 for S Korea). Now I’m not saying that Japanese colonial rule was hunky dory, and in fact for the former Yangban it probably sucked, but it’s clear that in terms of daily life it improved ordinary people’s lives.

            Now for more you can read “A CLIOMETRIC REVOLUTION IN THE ECONOMIC HISTORY OF KOREA: A CRITICAL REVIEW” by Duol Kim and Ki-Joo Park which was published in March 2012 in the Australian Economic History Review.

            They reviewed the current research in Korean economic history from 1700 to 1945 by Korean scholars. Surprising many nationalists, new research has now shown that Korea economically declined in terms of per capita income in the 18th and 19th centuries because of failures in markets and in government policy. Rice yields declined by half (!) per acre between 1700s and late 19th century. (p 87) Not improved as assumed. Now at the end of the 19th century things began to improve, so Korea may have been able to gotten itself out of this rut given enough time. But considering its status as the poorest country in Asia and the imperialism at the time, I have my doubts. If Japan hadn’t taken over Korea, China or Russia would have…

            For the colonial period the money quote is in pg 90 “The basic finding is that from 1912 to 1939, real GDP grew by 3.6 per cent per annum, and GDP per capita grew by 2.3 per cent per annum. At the same time, aggregate real consumption expenditure and its per capita value grew by 3.2 per cent per annum and 1.9 per cent per annum, respectively, from 1912 to 1939. Considering the worldwide stagnation during the inter-war period, this high growth was remarkable.” You can’t have Japan sucking the wealth of Korea dry and the people of Korea spending money money per year.

            So here’s another quote about the possibility of the colonial government sending the new found wealth of Korea to Japan. p.91

            “Leaving aside the ideological issues, past orthodox studies claimed that the fruits of growth during the colonial period went mostly to Japan and that Korean
            living standards deteriorated accordingly, despite the growth of GDP per capita.33 Evidence so far, however, does not support this impoverishment argument. For example, numerous attempts to measure real wages for the colonial era all indicate that the real wage of Korean male unskilled workers did not decrease, while that for Korean male skilled workers even increased.34 Using the heights of
            male Hangryu deceased (unclaimed bodies), Duol Kim and Heejin Park have shown that average height grew by 2.2 cm over the colonial period, which points to improved diets and welfare on average.35 Inequality probably rose during the
            colonial period. However, inequality indices compiled from tax records show that the major source of increased inequality was the dispersion of income within ethnic groups rather than between ethnic groups. 36”

            Here’s their conclusion in pg 92.
            “The most remarkable is the reversal of the previous optimistic view of endogenous economic growth. Instead, from 1700 there was long-term decline of agricultural productivity, especially after 1800, which continued for most of the nineteenth century. This was followed by an upward movement starting from the late nineteenth century and continuing into the Japanese colonial era.”

            So, if you have complaints about this interpretation of economic history please go talk to the Naksungdea Institute of Economic Research (NIER) in Korea. But to me it looks like they and other economic historians are doing actual research instead of being blinded by nationalist ideology.

            2 Comfort women
            Again read chapters 2 and 3 of Sarah Soh’s The Comfort Women: Sexual Violence and Postcolonial Memory in Korea and Japan. I really don’t want to take her words out of context because she has done excellent research and explains the variety of experiences but she says in Korea “large-scale abductions in the manner of Yoshida Seiji’s discredited confessional story of ‘slave raids’ in Chejudo could not, and probably did not, take place.” (Chapter 3, p 139).

            As for http://www.archives.gov/iwg/japanese-war-crimes/introductory-essays.pdf

            P 49 of the pdf, or pg 41 of the text of the Introductory essay on Japanese war crimes is the part that should have a mention of enslavement of Korean women if it happened. But it does not talk about enslavement because there is no evidence that it happened in Korea. So it merely says “A bigger issue concerns the degrees of coercion and government involvement.”

            The whole point of this research was to find hard evidence for the coercion by the government but it didn’t find any. It says that women were forced into prostitution in the previous page but never mentions that the people who sent them to prostitution where their parents or pimps who tricked them.

            I haven’t read the book by Park Yuha called the Empire’s Comfort Women, but I understand that she is making the same points as I am. And her book got banned by the South Korean government… (I guess it must be a really inconvenient book for them.)

            I think the problem here is that Koreans are assuming that Japan did the same thing to Korea that it did in China or Indonesia or the Philippines which were all warzones. Korea was not a warzone.

            3 Wartime draftees
            There’s really nothing special here. Koreans like Japanese had to work in mines during wartime because of the national mobilization law. That’s the same as conscripts or drafted soldiers in South Korea today. The government recruits or drafts people to work and pays them. The pay may have been low and what they got paid may have turned to scrap because of postwar inflation, but that’s something everyone (Korean or Japanese) faced. They may not have wanted to go, but I suspect that a lot of South Korean youth don’t want to go to the army either considering they get paid $120 a month. If as you claim wartime draftees went to “offshore Auschwitz” then South Korea is currently running an “Auschwitz” called the South Korean army. I hope you realize how deeply offensive this is. Korean nationalists really need to stop the exaggeration.

            • 1.
              Well, It is nonsense to assert any kind of economic growth in figures under structural contradiction of capitalism.
              (Small number of Japanese landowner exploit the majority of korean tenant)

              2.
              As I mentioned earlier there were many Korean enforced sex slaves in overseas battlefield because the Japanese military lead them.

              3.
              umm…. Korean military has one kind or another problem now, You may know it’s ridiculous to compare that to forced labor during the Japanese occupation.

              • adding.

                My refutation is too short and concerned if my opinion was conveyed well, I would like to add some more.

                According to your reference,
                ‘average height grew by 2.2 cm over the colonial period’.
                The colonial period is more than 35 years(at least 1910-1945). Height grew 2.2cm over 3 decades long, seems natural, not related with expecially improved diets and welfare.

                And the number of korean skilled worker is very small because japan had provided korean public with only basic education to use as cheap and unskilled worker.

            • I read your comment again with caution.

              1.
              Well, Much Inequality within ethnic group could be a proof of deteriorated share of korean public in that period.
              Because acquiring the wealth was allowed only Japanese and very few rich korean who was obedient to Japanese colonial in occupied korea.
              Based on historical data with this economic condition, there is no wonder that study has made such conclusion.
              Actually this economic phenomenon is pretty common in colony. and the fact can’t give indulgence to Japanese oppressor….

              2.
              Japanese colonialist had considered korea as a military supply base for attacking other nations, and the korean resistance was executed immediately during the wartime.
              I think your opinion(Korea wasn’t a warzone) seems rather naive.

              3.
              Quoted Sarah Seo’s writing refers just one region of korea(Cheju province), well, can not give an entire explanation about what happened in korea at that time.
              Moreover, there are a lot of korean victim’s testimony, and it’s absurd to ignore all the verbal evidences because of some documents.

              Lastly, If We can’t deny the existence of enforced draftees under severe working conditions (most of them died at worksite and couldn’t return to their home..),
              Why can’t we in the case of the korean enforced female sex slaves?
              They were just exploited as an instrument. I think the cases are ultimately the same.

      • You make a point about culture of Tibetans being destroyed, but you neglect to mention that in Korea’s case. The Japanese certainly must have done something in that regard to Korea such as change the historical narrative so that they are portrayed as being the “superior” nation especially when pre-1800 Japan was pretty much considered backwater of the Sino centric world. I wonder what the Japanese did specifically in this regard? They did damage certain historical sites.

        As to comfort women I would be interested in knowing what they dig up in terms of documentation on the Japanese side especially in regards to the military knowing whether this was going on and taking women in despite the dubious means employed to get them. This is so that we can get the whole picture.

        It’s not just Korean nationalist it is also those Chinilpa who want to cover themselves from being collaborationist who are started these antics.

        • Er, my analogy was that Korea under Japanese occupation suffered cultural destruction and assimilation. Tibet has Mandarin language education, Korea had Japanese language education, Tibet has its Buddhist temples being weakened, Korea had Shinto shrines built. Since Robert Kelly, our blog owner, pointed this out, I thought this was unnecessary for me to repeat it…

          By the way pre-1800 Japan wasn’t a backwater of the Sino-centric world (with implications that it was poor and barbaric). Misunderstanding this might be why the nationalist historical narrative in Korea got its vision of pre19th century Korea as being prosperous while Japan being poor (which is all wrong).

          The Tokugawa shogunate of Japan created its own Japan-centric world (you should read Ronald Toby’s book State and Diplomacy in Early Modern Japan) and so Japan once again broke away from the Sino-centric world.

          For example, the Korean missions sent to Japan during the Edo period to greet the shogun in Japan was seen by the Japanese public as a tribute paying mission signifying Korea’s submission to the shogun. It was not seen as a mission to “teach Japan civilization” as Korean nationalists would have it. The Ryukyu Kingdom also paid tribute and so did the Dutch East India Company. The Ainus paid tribute via Matsumae domain.

          Creating this smaller Japan-centered world led to Japan undergoing import substitution by the end of the 17th century. And this made life better for ordinary people (particularly in western Japan).

          This is in stark contrast to Korea which was part of the Sino-centric world and economically living standards fell in the 18th and 19th centuries as reported by Duol Kim and Ki-Joo Park.

          Economically by 1800 Japan was richer than China and far richer than Korea per person. The Angus Maddison data has it that in 1800 estimated GPD per person in Japan was $641, while China in 1820 was $600 and S Korea in 1820 was $335. You can look this up yourself http://www.ggdc.net/maddison/maddison-project/home.htm

          Susan Hanley’s essay “A High Standard of Living in Nineteenth-Century Japan: Fact or Fantasy?” in Journal of Economic History March 1983 compares Edo favorably with London and concludes if she were a commoner she would prefer to live in Edo and if she were a member of the elite she would prefer to live in London. Now that’s just her opinion (considering UK GDP per person in 1800 was $2097, I’m not so sure). But Japan at $641 was the highest in East Asia and Southeast Asia and in terms of urban infrastructure it was certainly better than in Europe where they were throwing their night soil out on the street in the morning.

          Korean nationalist education has been feeding Koreans half truths if its saying that pre1800 Japan was a backwater (and that Japan got its jump in the 20th century because it had the Meiji Restoration of 1868). The Meiji Restoration was key, but there’s also a longer history of economic development inside Japan. For this long term development I would suggest Nakamura Takafusa’s works since they are translated into English.

          • Okay thanks for the enlightening. I also remember that there was mention that in a way the Tokugawa regime may have laid the groundwork for the development of the Meiji period. Didn’t the Tokugawa period leave behind a good road system in place? I mean they required hostages to stay in Edo for certain period so it required travel on well maintained roads.

            • Yup, you got that right.

              If you are curious about how the Tokugawa period left behind a legacy that helped in the modernization then Thomas C Smith’s Agrarian Origins of Modern Japan (published in 1959) is an old but classic book. It’s probably only in libraries at this point. His Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization 1750-1920 is also a good source on this topic.

              By the way I don’t want you to think that the Japanese experience was hunky dory. Rural Eastern Japan in particular suffered population decline (and most likely lower living standards) from the 18th century until the early 19th century while Western Japan prospered throughout the Tokugawa period. It’s only in aggregate that things look ok for Japan.

              • We forgot to mention the political system of both countries and how it factored into this. The Tokugawa regime was about control or rather keeping everybody else especially the outer domains in check by prohibiting them from doing any work on fortifications and such without their permission. I guess Perry’s visit pretty much set in motion events that caused the regime to unravel as it had enemies who were bidding their time. The whole system got overthrown so that revolutionary changes can happen. Korea on the other hand had a monarchial system with factions that over several centuries had adapted here and there which enabled it to last. However it was unable to make revolutionary or radical changes. Whereas Japan made radical changes Korea was more gradual or rather in the 19th century was slowly withering that is the old order and only gradually making changes to adapt to the west. In hindsight Japan’s political arrangement may have been more brittle.

      • “And finally there were no enforced sex slaves from Korea. Comfort women from Korea were mostly tricked by Korean and Japanese pimps or sold into prostitution by their families as far as we know.” Assuming that’s true, this translates to consent how?
        “http://www.archives.gov/iwg/japanese-war-crimes/introductory-essays.pdf”
        From p.40 of that document:
        “As Yoshimi points out, numerous Japanese government documents were either lost or remain classified. Among them are police records belonging to the former Home Ministry that allegedly had been destroyed……many others held by the Self-Defense Agency War History Department Library remained closed to the public for privacy reasons.” I wonder if Yeltsin cited “privacy” as a reason when he re-closed Soviet archives? Anyways, the Japanese right-wingers are highly inconsistent with their supposed standards for “solid evidence”. There’s little solid evidence that North Korea kidnapped all those Japanese either. Even Kim Jong-Il’s admission referred to only 13 individuals but Japan believes that there were more. Yet somehow “lack of evidence” doesn’t seem to stop their concern over this issue.

        • Yeah, NK maintained for the longest time that there were NO kidnapped Japanese, and that we were all a bunch of liars. You make the best arguments.

          • Until Kim Jong-Il’s admission of those 13 cases, the arguments denying involuntary recruitment of comfort women and the kidnapping of Japanese were the same: That evidence was either “non-existent” or came from “biased sources”. Prior to Kim’s admission, why should the wider world have believed in the guilt of a leftist Korean dictatorship but not in the guilt of a rightist Japanese dictatorship?

            • Let’s not forget that when admitted to the kidnappings he got skewered by the Japanese so the north Koreans are less likely to admit to any wrongs based on this experienced as noted by the author of this blog.

  2. The following is an opinion poll conducted in Japan by NTV (major Japanese network) this June.
    http://www.ntv.co.jp/yoron/201506/answer_13.html

    What do you think Japan should do in response to the Korean government asking for apologies and compensation over “comfort women”?
    1. Japan has done enough already. There is no need for any further apologies or compensation 36.8%
    2. There is no evidence that “comfort women” were systematically forced into servitude. Japan must work further to dispel the international misunderstanding 18.2%
    3. Japan as a nation should offer apologies and compensation to former “comfort women” 3.9%
    4. Japan must communicate with Korea to come up with a mutually acceptable solution 34.8%
    5. Don’t know, no answer 6.4%

    Granted, the 5 choices are not the best composed (certainly not MECE), but you can get the general gist of the current Japanese public sentiment.
    The MAJORITY of Japanese believes that the “comfort women” issue is NOT a legitimate grievance. So, no, it is not an extremist position to have doubts about the conventional historiography.
    (Yomiuri, the parent company of NTV is slightly middle-right by my estimation, if you think this is a biased poll.)

    I guess you can draw your own conclusions about what these results mean. If it comforts you to view Japan as being composed of a bunch of morally defective deniers corrupted by rightist vitriol, you may do so (China and Korea). But to those that don’t have a horse in this race (the West), does this not seem even a little bit weird to you? I do believe that the general consensus globally is that the Japanese are (now) quite reasonable people. Unlike some, in Japan we believe in the freedom of speech, so there are plenty of left-leaning opinions out there in the public domain (in many cases louder and stronger than the right). If reasonable people reach a certain conclusion after having seen both sides of the argument, I think there should be some weight given to that.

    One commenter, Mr. Shimazaki eloquently pointed out a few articles ago about the seeming biases of the West towards Japan. I too, am puzzled by the West’s insistence on adhering to the conventional historiography, when (to us) it is painfully obvious that it is at “the expense of the usual principles, or standards of fairness”. If you are going to make judgmental comments on this issue, I highly urge you to first read up on the supposedly “overwhelming” evidence that supports your narrative. I know that I have, and it is at the very least, controversial, as in, there can be reasonable discussion on how to interpret the evidence either way. Making a sweeping generalization about the legitimacy of one side of the argument, without giving so much as an effort to understand what the arguments are on the other side, seems lazy and irresponsible.

    I struggle to find an explanation of why the West does this, but my humble take is that it exemplifies your tendency to fall for the sappy story. Even by your own admission, the storytellers have a notorious backlog of telling tall tales. But because the moral of the story is sound (boo to human rights violations), facts and details seem to have gotten swept under the rug. It should not be difficult to realize that not even the staunchest Japanese right wingers question the moral of the story. As Mr. Shimazaki wrote, no one denies that by 21st century humanitarian standards, some of what the Japanese did during the war was atrocious, and it definitely caused a lot of suffering. That should however, not be an excuse for propagating non-truths that vilify others, in order to further ones own agenda. That is happening right now, in 2015, and it blatantly goes against the grain of current humanitarianism. The West has been (non-maliciously, I hope) an enabler, but now, we plead you to just take a look at the evidence with a clean slate. Why would you, as reasonable people, double down and get defensive without doing so?

  3. I wish I didn’t have to keep educating people on the comfort women issue, but folks like hiraccoon keep showing up, so I must once again.

    There are two different types of experts. The first type is American and Japanese scholars who haven’t had access to the primary source evidence because they can’t read Korean. The second type is Korean scholars who have had access to the primary source because they can.

    The Korean scholars who have had access to the primary source such as the Korean comfort station worker’s diary, the articles in Korean newspapers & the recruitment ads in Korean newspapers all agree that Korean women were either sold by their parents or were deceived by Korean brokers.

    The follwoing is the diary written by a Korean comfort station worker discovered in 2013 by Professor Ahn Byong Jik of Seoul National University. It details how Korean brokers recruited Korean women in the Peninsula (sometimes on false pretenses) and how they owned & operated comfort stations employing those women. According to the diary Korean owners beat and sometimes raped Korean women when they didn’t obey orders.

    http://book.daum.net/detail/book.do?bookid=KOR9788994228761

    http://archive.is/1jcC4

    The follwoing are the articles published in Korean newspapers in the 1930’s & 1940’s. They report the arrests of Korean traffickers who were engaging in illegal recruiting.

    http://gall.dcinside.com/board/view/?id=history&no=1283822

    The following is a help wanted ad in a Korean newspaper Maeil Shinbo on October 27, 1944. A Korean broker (Mr. Ho) was recruiting comfort women. There are other ads like this one.

    San Francisco State University Professor Chunghee Sarah Soh’s book also details how Korean brokers recruited Korean women in the Peninsula and how they owned & operated comfort stations employing those women. Professor Soh has looked into dozens of primary source evidences and had also interviewed dozens of former Korean comfort women in the early 1990’s before they were taken in by Chong Dae Hyup.

    https://books.google.co.jp/books?id=GIHcaFVxXf0C&printsec=frontcover&hl=ja#v=onepage&q&f=false

    http://scholarsinenglish.blogspot.jp/2014/10/the-comfort-women-by-chunghee-sarah-soh.html

    Sejong University Professor Park Yuha agrees with Professor Chunghee Sarah Soh & Professor Ahn Byong Jik.

    http://scholarsinenglish.blogspot.jp/2014/10/summary-of-professor-park-yuhas-book.html

    As a history student, I interviewed over one hundred Koreans who were born and raised in the Korean Peninsula in 1920’s and 1930’s including my grandparents, and what they told me coincides with these Korean professors’ findings.

    The American and anti-government Japanese professors’ argument? “Comfort women enforcement by the Japanese military is an established fact in historiography.” That’s all. No concrete evidence whatsoever because they can’t read any primary source.

    The video provided by hiraccoon above features Masayoshi Matsumoto. Does hiraccoon even know that Matsumoto is a well known anti-government activist and a member of Japan Communist Party? After the war he was ordered to stay in China to help Kuomintang fight Mao’s Communist. When he returned to Japan he was very bitter and began telling lies to defame Japan.

    As for primary source evidence in Japanese, the following is the only one that has turned up.

    Professor Yoshiaki Yoshimi (a member of Japan Communist Party and an outspoken critic of Japanese government) claimed this document was the proof that the Japanese military abducted Korean women. Well, this document was written in old style Japanese and he misunderstood it. Upon further review, it bacame apparent what this document said was “crack down on Korean brokers who are engaging in illegal recruiting.” It wasn’t the proof that Yoshimi was looking for to defame Japan.

    By the way, I don’t exonerate the Japanese military because its invasion into China & Southeast Asia did create the need for comfort women. All I am saying is that the comfort women truth is nothing like the Korean narrative of “the Japanese military showed up at the doors and abducted young Korean women.”

    So I leave it to the readers whether to believe the scholars who have had accese to the primary source, or the scholars who just reiterate the conventional wisdom.

    • Thank you for your informative comment post.
      I will like to add that it is not just a language barriar, but people seem so entrenched in their notions, that they can not even read evidence in their own language properly.
      It really cracks me up that Report 49 is used as evidence FOR sex slavery. Did people even read the report? It is short, and it is in English; it should take 5 minutes. If you have not, please do. We’ll wait.
      http://www.exordio.com/1939-1945/codex/Documentos/report-49-USA-orig.html

      It is clearly a report that is evidence of the CONTRARY. It shows how LIMITED the involvement of the goverment and the military was. The comfort women were “nothing more than prostitutes”, (ie, NOT sex slaves)! They were paid exorbitantly! They went on picnics! They were given gifts! I am using too many exclamation points! But really, how can anyone read this report and say that this is evidence of sex slaves?
      I could go further. The report says that the comfort women averaged 25 years of age. I do recall certain American historians and a major publisher recently writing (into a TEXTBOOK for crying out loud) that comfort women’s “ages ranged from 14 to 20 years old”. No qualifiers. Just that they were all aged between 14 and 20. When reasonable Japanese people pointed this error out… well, I probably don’t need to tell you how they took this criticism (poorly). How can anyone defend that kind of distortion? Prof. Kelly? Is it really the creepy conservative circle with their head in the sand?

      And yes, this document survived the mythical “destroying of evidence”. I just love that the Japanese, during their panic over just losing the war, were successful in selectively destroying evidence that went against them, but not the ones that exonerated them. And sure, the studious Japanese were able to go into the American archives and destroy them, too. Because Americans recently spent millions to turn their archives upside down with the express purpose of digging up dirt on Japanese war crimes. And they found… NOTHING.

      And you wonder why Japan becomes so defensive and sometimes irrational over this…

        • “It really cracks me up that Report 49 is used as evidence FOR sex slavery. Did people even read the report?”
          One could ask you the same question.

          “RECRUITING;
          Early in May of 1942 Japanese agents arrived in Korea for the purpose of enlisting Korean girls for ‘comfort service’ in newly conquered Japanese territories in Southeast Asia. The nature of this ‘service’ was not specified but it was assumed to be work connected with visiting the wounded in hospitals, rolling bandages, and generally making the soldiers happy. The inducement used by these agents was plenty of money, an opportunity to pay off the family debts, easy work, and the prospect of a new life in a new land, Singapore. On the basis of these false representations many girls enlisted for overseas duty and were rewarded with an advance of a few hundred yen.”
          Uh-huh. Because recruiting labor under false pretenses is totally legit. The Russian mob lures women into prostitution all the time under false pretenses of finding work overseas. I guess they’re unfairly smeared too huh?

          “PAY AND LIVING CONDITIONS;
          The “house master” received fifty to sixty per cent of the girls’ gross earnings depending on how much of a debt each girl had incurred when she signed her contract. This meant that in an average month a girl would gross about fifteen hundred yen. She turned over seven hundred and fifty to the “master”. Many “masters” made life very difficult for the girls by charging them high prices for food and other articles.
          In the latter part of 1943 the Army issued orders that certain girls who had paid their debt could return home. Some of the girls were thus allowed to return to Korea.”
          If they were truly free, they should’ve been allowed to leave whenever they want and find other ways of paying off their debt of their own choosing.

          “They were paid exorbitantly! They went on picnics! They were given gifts!”
          So basically they were the equivalent of “house slaves” or skilled slaves. Throughout history there have been examples of some slaves being treated better than other slaves. Skilled African-American slaves were also paid and sometimes earned enough to buy their own freedom. None of that changes the fact that they were slaves.

          “the Americans found nothing in terms of evidence for sex slavery.”
          Sure, if you cherry pick.

          • A better analogy to what they are is probably the American “indentured servant”. Need / want money, bond themselves for the money, can’t leave until the contract is served.

            Under the latest definitions of slavery, you can indeed call it such. The nub with this is that this is another example of a word being stretched beyond its visceral definition. The human visceral definition of slavery remains the so-called “chattel slavery” (not even the “skilled slave” subvariant) variant.

            In short, the plaintiffs get their cake and eat it too. They need only meet the relaxed definitions to use the term, but once they leave the room, they can just utter the word “slavery” and invoke that chattel slavery variant. When challenged, they can fight, be exposed for having no cards, and then eep “But you can’t deny this did happen, so under the new expanded definitions, it is slavery.”

            Then they escape to a new audience, again utter the word slavery …

            You can see this is pretty annoying.

            For me, I say, as long as Americans still say “indentured servant”, Japan can say “comfort women” rather than “sex slave.”

            • Well, nobody meddled with your naming for ‘the event’.
              EY just made it clear that ‘the event'(someone calls it slavery, another calls it comfort woman, or so) contained several properties;
              Human traffic by deceiving the casualty, and Being forced to offer service against their own will.

              • I will reiterate this again.
                YES, there was human trafficking by deceiving.
                YES, there were people forced to serve against their will.
                YES, war sucks, and whatever blame game you want to play in terms of who started what, of course the Japanese gov and IJA are responsible for these suffering caused, and should apologize (and we have).
                YES, if the victims (victim countries) do not wish to accept these apologies, and choose instead to hang on to hatred for 1000 years, we couldn’t convince you otherwise. I don’t agree, but I see your point.
                So, what are your arguments?

                Japan’s argument is that, REGARDLESS of the above,
                NO, there is still no evidence of systematic coercion by the government or the military.
                NO, the numbers (200,000) and comparisons (slaves, holocaust) that are bandied about are not substantiable, go against common sense, and are plain offensive.
                NO, we don’t feel that Japan should be singled out, because we feel there is nothing that singles us out, but if you disagree, we are willing to listen to reasonable criticism.
                NO, the victim countries should not tattle to gullible third parties, using distortions and exaggerations.

                As for the third parties… we know that you mean well, but,
                If you feel that the numbers are unimportant, sure, but please do make it clear that that is what you are arguing.
                If you feel it is not so much “slavery” (abductions, murder, not getting paid), but general human rights violations (against their will), again, you are not getting any denials from a whole lot of us.
                But if those two points are true, then you cannot make a claim that Japanese wartime brutality was “unprecedented in its cruelty and magnitude” without evidence. (And no, Hicks is not credible evidence, as any serious scholar will tell you.) These are not reasonable criticism.

                This message again, is not meant for the irrational, but a plea to the people we hope believe in reason and fairness.

            • Studying the specific case of Report 49, of the rather long list of circumstances that would qualify for trafficking, only the charge of fraud or deception would potentially qualify.

              And on this last point, I would like to propose one reason why Westerners don’t understand right-winger thinking – their lack of “immersion” into Japanese affairs, which creates problems with understanding simple words like “hundreds of yen”.

              Because, to a Westerner, not very steeped in Japanese affairs, “hundreds of yen” is first and foremost the price of maybe 4 cans of soda or a few snack bars. He might barely think of inflation, so it isn’t worth quite as little, but it just doesn’t feel like a lot of money. In effect, these girls were scammed, and not by even a very large amount (which opens his mind to such words as “coercion”)

              A right-winger, who is more steeped, immediately correlates the amount to the contemporary pay scale. A Superior Private’s pay, BTW, was 20 yen/month. A Captain (naval) was 150. He realizes within seconds that the advance is more than a year of working class pay, and the monthly gross wage is 1500/20=75 – six years pay! At this point, the girls’ claims that they never thought they’d have to do sex (the whole deception part) rings very hollow in the right-winger’s ears. How else did they think they were going to qualify for something like *seventy-five* times the going rate?

              • Ummm.. I never said Japanese militaristic brutality was “unprecedented in its cruelty and magnitude”.
                As you know there were lots of violation of human rights in the first half of the 20th century, and their atrocities do not stick out very much among those cruelties.

                EY just claimed that Japanese militarism did commit the crimes against Korean colonists. And I agree on it because the claim carried conviction.

                I think, EY’s comment so far disputed the documents which seemed reinforcing Japanese right winger’s argument.(and actually it turned out that the document didn’t support the argument strongly)

                Well, the right winger just asserts repeatedly without listening proper objections or pounces on rhetorical expression. I would like to say these all acts are only clouding the issue.

                and Lastly…. you said if the victims were deceived, it’s because they were so stupid even didn’t notice their undeserved labor value.
                well I don’t think these are justify your argument. It’s the cheater that‘s guilty not the cheated.

                • “Unprecedented in its cruelty and magnitude” is a direct reference from US House Resolution 121. This slander against Japan was approved and is on the record, as a result of the victim countries’ propaganda campaigns. There is a UN report (Coomaraswamy Report) that takes a similar tone.
                  Hiraccoon, I am glad to see that at least you are acknowledging that Japan wasn’t this special evil. But that does seem to be the narrative globally. You are correct in saying that perhaps Japan has not been the best at calmly and objectively laying out its point of view, and personally, I am certainly guilty of being over the top and unnecessarily snarky and defensive sometimes in my writings. For that, I am sorry.
                  I am not good with analogies, but let me try one. Say I was convicted of assault (I don’t know, say I kicked someone and broke his leg). I serve my time, and am completely contrite. I apologize to and compensate my victim. I become a model citizen for many years afterwards. However, one day, my victim starts going around telling the neighborhood that I am a morally defect rapist and murderer, and the neighborhood starts believing him. I object and say that that is not true. The victim hysterically continues with the slander, says that I am a denier of what I did, and I need to apologize and compensate again and again. Well, you could argue that I was in the wrong to begin with, so I deserve all of that. On an emotional scale, I guess I can see how people may feel that way. However, I would also hope that you see my point of view and understand my desire to clear my name.
                  As a 21st century humanist, I am appalled at what happened during WWII, and yes many of it was at the hands of my fellow Japanese. I can also see that I do not need to go back 70 years or look very hard to see human rights issues happening in the world TODAY. To me, that seems the more urgent problem to address going forward.

                • >if the victims were deceived, it’s because they were so stupid even didn’t notice their undeserved labor value

                  But we are arguing the exact OPPOSITE. Our argument is that these women were NOT stupid, that they knew exactly what was going on. Common sense dictates that if you are offered more money than what the Prime Minister makes, then you know there is a good reason for that.
                  If your narrative is that there was wide-spread deception, then we ask, why would there be so many public ads touting super high salaries remaining today? If the intent is to deceive, would it not be more natural to be, you know, more deceptive? (Or why even bother if you can just go the abduction route instead?)
                  You could, of course argue that the women were lured by these salaries, but not paid. However, the evidence says otherwise. If your narrative is (traditional) slavery, how do you explain why they got paid so much? Any self-respecting slave monger would tell you, the idea is not to pay for labor, but to exploit it.
                  Again, the evidence points far away from any systematic deception or exploitation. Forgery of newspapers and bank receipts is not a realistic retort, nor is selective destruction of incriminating evidence.
                  A friendly reminder that I am not at all in favor of prostitution. Yes, I am sure that there were many women who felt exploited despite the high salaries, and my sympathies are with them. Like I said with war sucking, prostitution sucks too. And if Japan’s war actions enabled prostitution to happen, well, shame on us. But you do have to understand that there is a clear distinction between prostitution and sex slavery.

          • >Early in May of 1942 Japanese agents arrived in Korea for the purpose of enlisting Korean girls for ‘comfort service’ in newly conquered Japanese territories in Southeast Asia

            Read footnote #2, #3 of the following article.

            http://scholarsinenglish.blogspot.jp/2014/10/summary-of-professor-park-yuhas-book.html

            If you read the Korean comfort station manager’s diary, it mentions that the comfort station owners (they were Korean with Japanese surnames) were interrogated by the U.S. military in Burma. The U.S. interrogator thought they were Japanese because they had Japanese surnames. So the agents who recruited Korean women under false pretenses were Korean, not Japanese. Very few people understand this.

            >If they were truly free, they should’ve been allowed to leave whenever they want and find other ways of paying off their debt of their own choosing.

            Read the former Korean comfort woman Mun Oku-chu’s memoir.

            http://scholarsinenglish.blogspot.jp/2014/10/former-korean-comfort-woman-mun-oku.html

            Although she and her friends received permission to go back to Korea, they refused and requested to stay in Burma to make more money.

            The U.S. military boarded Korean women and Japanese soldiers on the same ship to send them back home, and even on that ship Korean women solicited sex to sqeeze money from Japanese soldiers according to the memoir. (This is not included in the excerpts, but if you read the whole memoir you’ll find it)

  4. “The Chinese Communist Party’s appalling history toward its own people conveniently lets the Empire off the hook. The CCP will lose a ‘who was worse to the Chinese people than who’ contest with the Empire.” “Lets the Empire off the hook” is a bit strong. This is actually an argument used by right-wingers all across the globe, not just Japan’s, who criticized granting independence to their colonies. The massive poverty and tyranny and swept the ex-colonies “enabled” the far-right to claim “We told you so”. Yet, for the most part, we accept that whatever faults the ex-subjects have had doesn’t excuse our own imperialist aggression. I suppose it’s like arguing that crimes against those who have a rap sheet themselves are excusable. Besides, I hardly think Communists are the only Chinese with bitter memories of Japanese conquest. They may have used anti-Communism as propaganda for their imperialist drive, but it virulent Japanese ethnocentrism, not anti-Communism, that was the main ideological “justification” for their empire. They didn’t ask Chinese people what their politics were when they massacred them. Present Chinese dictatorship aside, Japan’s behavior in China was far bloodier than Japan’s behavior in Korea. “Geopolitics: South Korea is simply not as important to the United States as Japan, so there are limits to how far the US will push Tokyo. And so long as the US provides strategic security to both, Japan is shielded from regional pressure on its unwillingness to move.” But is South Korea not “a front line state”? Besides, what does that say about “US leadership” if they can’t persuade the Japanese to stop their imperial/fascist apologia and start leaning on the “less significant” South Koreans instead? “comfort women memorials” But are there not already Holocaust and An Gorta Mor memorials in the US? Are these the result of Jewish and Irish lobbying? If these are alright, especially the Irish Famine memorials given our longstanding “special relationship” with the UK, what’s wrong with Korean comfort women memorials?

    • According to this rant the CCP could be responsible for the second Sino-Japanese war and indirectly to the atrocities perpetuated by this conflict. If this in fact is proven conclusively and comes out in the open the CCP might get what it deserves which is not going to be pretty to put it mildly.

      The politically incorrect truth about Japan in WWII.


  5. President Park Geun-hye’s younger sister says something perfectly reasonable.

    “Japan, including the emperor, has officially apologized four times already. We shouldn’t demand Japan to apologize any more. Japanese politicians visiting Yasukuni Shrine is their business, not ours.”

    And if you read the comment section of the article, the entire nation of South Korea is going nuts, lol. Just shows how brainwashed the South Koreans are!

    http://news.naver.com/main/ranking/read.nhn?mid=etc&sid1=111&rankingType=popular_day&oid=001&aid=0007763357&date=20150730&type=1&rankingSeq=1&rankingSectionId=100

  6. Ugh! Tunneling! Any more responses on some threads here will seriously end up as vertical text! lol So anyway, this is a response to kmorihisa’s July 30 post: “‘“Unprecedented in its cruelty and magnitude’ is a direct reference from US House Resolution 121” I was referring to that “Report #49”, but ok. “This slander against Japan.” That “slander” was aimed at the old Japanese dictatorship. “Japan wasn’t this special evil. But that does seem to be the narrative globally” The “special evil” that everyone opposes is fascism. The “global narrative” is but questioning why apologia for Japanese fascism should be any less odious than doing so for German fascism. “Say I was convicted of assault…etc., etc.” Similar things could be said about many other dictatorships. Like my example with North Korea. Until Kim Jong-Il admitted to those 13 kidnappings, there was similarly a lack of explicit evidence proving that Pyongyang was engaged in such behavior. As you said, the North Koreans sneered, called you all “liars” and accused you of just making up more shit to sandbag them with ….just like you’re doing to the former comfort women and others today. I saw very little of this “Don’t accuse until you’ve got solid evidence” standard back then. “As a 21st century humanist, I am appalled at what happened during WWII, and yes many of it was at the hands of my fellow Japanese. I can also see that I do not need to go back 70 years or look very hard to see human rights issues happening in the world TODAY. To me, that seems the more urgent problem to address going forward.” And yet here you are doing your share of focusing on 70 years ago. Specifically by defending the old regime no less. I don’t see how today’s concerns are served by defending the old fascist dictatorship.

    • >Until Kim Jong-Il admitted to those 13 kidnappings, there was similarly a lack of explicit evidence proving that Pyongyang was engaged in such behavior.

      OK, I can actually see your point, but here are some differences:

      1) The Japanese claims actually started much closer to after they were ostensibly kidnapped, while comfort women only popped up on the radar nearly 50 years after the fact. There is a huge credibility difference here.
      2) The Japanese claims do not “magnify” the problem by claiming for example two hundred thousand people were kidnapped based on less than a score of cases.
      3) At least the Japanese have not been known to shoot themselves in the foot with their own testimonies.
      4) The government isn’t being nearly as loud about this as the South Korean government.

      But here’s the real kicker that intrigues me.

      5) If you go out in a Western forum and make a similar point, you are much less likely to be called morally defective just for raising this point than a Japanese who has the misfortune to raise a point about comfort women.

      Why is this?

    • EY, I don’t want to have to pull quotes from my own posts here, because that would seem like I’m snarkily rubbing your nose in it, but really, I can’t say this enough times, and it is getting quite old.
      I AM NOT DEFENDING THE JAPANESE MILITARY REGIME.
      Is that clear enough?
      The global narrative is not, “The Japanese were fascist and they were terrible” (again, agreed). The narrative is, “The Japanese were fascist, they were terrible, AND they conducted themselves in such an unprecedented evil way”
      See, there is a huge difference between being contrite/apologetic, and having to admit to things that did not happen. I will even give you a mile and say, things that *seem* did not happen because there is no hard evidence for it, despite there being a massive effort to find evidence, not only on the side of Japan (because you know, we would have just destroyed it all, Evil Japan), but everywhere else in the world.
      So go ahead, please harp on the fact that I broke your leg for a 1000 years. Please tell all your neighbors how evil I am for hurting you. I am of the opinion that even this would be questionable manners, because I apologized, compensated you, served my time, and have been a good citizen for many years since, and least of all, because you repeatedly keep promising that this will be the last time you will bring it up before reupping and asking for more compensation. But, if you still have a grudge, I have to respect that, I was obviously wrong to begin with, and hey, I can’t stop you from telling the truth. But when you cross the line and say that I am a rapist/murderer, or that I broke your leg 200 times, I have to put my foot down and defend my name, because now, it is not just bad manners, it is slander.

      I respect your freedom of opinion, but boy, I really, really think you should rethink your comparisons to NK, or Nazi Germany. It just stiffens us up and becomes fodder for all the right wingers dismissing all of this as totally ridiculous.
      North Korea
      Kidnappings did happen. That is fact. End of story.
      Germany
      The holocaust did happen. That is fact. Way horrible. Just plain offensive to compare the holocaust to anything else. End of story.
      Japan
      “Comfort women” did happen. That is fact. Sexual slavery (slavery in the traditional sense, just so that we are clear) may or may not have happened. All evidence points to it not having happened. Should be end of story.

      So I read Shimazaki-san’s comment, and okay, I can play along too. Along with all of the points that Shimazaki-san has (which I all agree with), there is such a thing as common sense.
      Do you need mental contortion to align common sense with the narrative?
      Well, given NK’s human rights history, not so much.
      Wartime Japan? Either one of the following has to make sense.
      1. Does it make strategic or military sense to abduct and confine 200,000 women while trying to fight a war?
      2. Is Japan so evil (and dumb) that they would do something even if it did not make strategic or military sense?

      Again, I don’t like repeating myself, but I am not focusing on what happened 70 years ago. You will see in the next 2 weeks, misunderstood references to “comfort women” bandied about again and again in the global theater. The slander is happening *right now*, so yeah, I have to defend our name today.
      You will also notice that all of Japan’s reactions (whether you think they are good or bad), are just that: reactions. Japan did not bring this up. We don’t want to have to continue this endless loop. I hope it does not make me a denier to say that globally, there are better things that we should be worrying about in the name of progressing liberal humanism.

      Shimazaki-san, I dare say you may already have some theories as to why 5) is. I agree that C and K are lost causes, but the West is puzzling, no? I picked the comfort women issue because it is such low hanging fruit, but revisiting the entire narrative needs to happen sooner rather than later. A healthy debate might be worthwhile (although I apologize to Prof Kelly for cluttering his comments section).

      • “At least the Japanese have not been known to shoot themselves in the foot with their own testimonies.” Were there not previous denials that the Japanese military was involved at all in running the CW system? (Although some comments seem to still cling to that argument by shifting as much blame as possible onto Korean collaborators. In which case perhaps the Holocaust should be blamed on Ukraine due to so many Nazi death camp guards actually being Ukrainians?) So now the argument has shifted to claiming that the CWs were in the aggregate voluntary prostitutes. “The narrative is, ‘The Japanese were fascist, they were terrible, AND they conducted themselves in such an unprecedented evil way.'” So now that one US House Resolution is “the global narrative” is it? How do you know there aren’t other US bills with similar wording? Even if there aren’t, you really think Americans bash the Japanese far more than the Nazi Germans or anyone else in history? “So go ahead, please harp on the fact that I broke your leg for a 1000 years. Please tell all your neighbors how evil I am for hurting you. I am of the opinion that even this would be questionable manners, because I apologized, compensated you, served my time, and have been a good citizen for many years since” Is that it? Once you apologize, the subject can never be mentioned again? Actually, Germany still does get demands for compensation for WWII and recently some Indian politicians have advocated demanding reparations from Britain. Some African-Americans also believe that their race is owed reparations from the US govt. for slavery. So no, it’s not just Japan who “is singled out”. “I really, really think you should rethink your comparisons to NK, or Nazi Germany. It just stiffens us up”. The old regime was a major fascist dictatorship responsible for tremendous acts of aggression and misery in the name of ethnic supremacy. Was it identical to Nazi Germany? No of course not. Was it comparable to NG? Of course it is. If Japanese “really really” get offended by that and “stiffens up” then their sense of history really is distorted. Not to mention, interesting why they should be so emotionally invested in defending what’s supposed to be “the old regime” (at this point, it’s no use denying that that’s what you’re doing, if you can’t even accept comparisons to fellow fascist dictatorships) when they’re supposed to be a “new democratic” country.

      • EY, I could make another snarky comment and thank you for being so irrational, because it only acts as evidence of what kind of nonsense we are up against, and leave it at that. After all, I have already commented repeatedly that my target audience is not the irrational, but more reasonable people affected by the propaganda.
        But, what the heck, it is the weekend, so I will indulge in your questions.

        > Although some comments seem to still cling to that argument by shifting as much blame as possible onto Korean collaborators

        No, the argument is that the military involvement was limited, and that they didn’t order or authorize illegal coercion. That is not the same as saying there was no military involvement. You are twisting words.

        > So now the argument has shifted to claiming that the CWs were in the aggregate voluntary prostitutes.

        Yes, that is, and has always been the argument. Were there incidents of involuntary women working as comfort women? I am sure there were. Were those women systematically coerced on direct orders by the military. No.

        >So now that one US House Resolution is “the global narrative” is it?

        US House Resolution 121
        Coomaraswamy Report
        Comfort women resolution in Canada, NY, MD, IL, etc
        McGraw Hill textbook
        Memorials or proposed memorials in Glendale, Fairfax, Palisades Park, Burnaby etc
        The clown that is Mike Honda
        Our own Prof. Kelly telling readers that reading Hicks is a “good place to start”

        Yup, I would say that is a global narrative.

        >you really think Americans bash the Japanese far more than the Nazi Germans or anyone else in history?

        This is actually a good question, although I know you meant it rhetorically. I don’t know on an absolute scale, but I am sure that Japan is quite high on the bash vs. actual evil meter.

        >Once you apologize, the subject can never be mentioned again?

        Wait, did you read what I said? I said that you CAN mention it. I said that I think it is bad manners to do so, especially if the apology came with comps, and the tacit agreement that it would be the final word, but sure, go on mentioning it please. I’m not here to instruct you on manners, just as long as you abide by the law (no slandering).

        >Germany still does get demands for compensation for WWII

        Yes, when they just recently laughed Greece off, they did not get any grief over it globally.

        >Indian politicians have advocated demanding reparations from Britain

        I am not knowledgeable enough on the subject, but if there were never official treaties made relating to reparations (are they still part of the Crown?), then I guess India would have a case. Personally, I am not in favor of rehashing the past, but who am I to judge.

        >Some African-Americans also believe that their race is owed reparations from the US govt. for slavery

        Ooh, that is a touchy subject. Do we really want to go there? Personally, I think there may be validity to this, not because of things done in the past, but because it is still affecting lives today. But again, too difficult a topic to tackle today.

        >The old regime was a major fascist dictatorship responsible for tremendous acts of aggression and misery in the name of ethnic supremacy

        Here, we can just agree to disagree. Of course, I agree that there was aggression and suffering caused by it, but the degree and intent, I would have to disagree with you.
        Also, fascism and dictatorship are not the appropriate terms, in my opinion, but hey, we can have different opinions, right? (Who would be the dictator, though? Oh, please don’t say the emperor…)

        >Was it identical to Nazi Germany? No of course not. Was it comparable to NG? Of course it is. If Japanese “really really” get offended by that and “stiffens up” then their sense of history really is distorted.

        Here is where I am going to ask you again nicely to please stop. Sure, you have a different opinion and I respect that, but Nazi Germany is just not comparable to anything else. I am not offended just for the Japanese, but for humankind, not to mention the people who were victimized, because by making that comparison, you are belittling the travesty that was Nazi Germany. You can make your points without invoking that, please.

        > Not to mention, interesting why they should be so emotionally invested in defending what’s supposed to be “the old regime”

        OK, I guess I didn’t make myself clear enough. (Boy oh boy.)
        How many different ways can I say I am not defending it?
        I am not defending it, because I am not defending it?
        Say the person that I hate the most in the world, the person I find most despicable, is accused of murder. If I knew for a fact that he didn’t do it, of course I am not going to call him a murderer. I will stick up for his innocence. I will still hate him and find him despicable, but he is no murderer. Is this a difficult concept to understand?
        So, no, I am not defending it.

        Oops, I’ve used up my snark for the day.

        • -“EY, I could make another snarky comment and thank you for being so irrational, because it only acts as evidence of what kind of nonsense we are up against, and leave it at that. After all, I have already commented repeatedly that my target audience is not the irrational, but more reasonable people affected by the propaganda.”
          You could indeed make another snarky comment and indeed just did. If you’re concerned about people being irrational and affected by progaganda, look in the mirror.

          -“No, the argument is that the military involvement was limited, and that they didn’t order or authorize illegal coercion. That is not the same as saying there was no military involvement. You are twisting words.”
          So still arguing that Japan’s military wasn’t responsible. I guess progress has NOT been made.

          -“Coomaraswamy Report, Comfort women resolution in Canada, NY, MD, IL, etc, McGraw Hill textbook, Memorials or proposed memorials in Glendale, Fairfax, Palisades Park, Burnaby etc, The clown that is Mike Honda, Our own Prof. Kelly telling readers that reading Hicks is a ‘good place to start'”
          Really? ALL them contain that phrase “unprecedented in its cruelty and magnitude”?

          -“Yup, I would say that is a global narrative” “Global” means worldwide. If the whole world agrees that what Japan did was shitty and nobody’s buying the denial, maybe, just maybe, it’s the Japanese apologists who are living in a bubble.

          -“This is actually a good question, although I know you meant it rhetorically. I don’t know on an absolute scale.”
          Yeah, well, we don’t. From school history to the entertainment industry, the Nazi Germans are featured far more often than the Imperial Japanese.

          -“but I am sure that Japan is quite high on the bash vs. actual evil meter”.
          Oh of course, just like the First World War fascist atrocities are primarily the Germans’ fault, huh? Japan was just an Asian version of Finland right?

          -“Wait, did you read what I said? I said that you CAN mention it. I said that I think it is bad manners to do so, especially if the apology came with comps, and the tacit agreement that it would be the final word.”
          I see, so history lessons that detail what wrong had been done are “bad manners” if the perpetrators had apologized.

          -“Yes, when they recently laughed Greece off…..but who am I to judge.”
          Yeah, as I said: ” So no, it’s not just Japan who ‘is singled out.’ Those were all examples given to counter your whining that’s it’s only Japan getting crap for what earlier regimes had done.

          -“Ooh, that is a touchy subject. Do we really want to go there? Personally, I think there may be validity to this, not because of things done in the past, but because it is still affecting lives today. But again, too difficult a topic to tackle today.” The point being that even if most Americans don’t agree with paying reparations, all the same nobody in our mainstream here tries to minimize or deny slavery. Only the racist fringe are bothered by the fact that we still teach this in our history classes (isn’t that the whole point of history?) or that movies are made about this subject. Our president doesn’t make statements saying that slavery wasn’t that bad.

          -“but I am sure that Japan is quite high on the bash vs. actual evil meter.”
          It’s not #1 but Axis Japan deserves to be high on “bash meter” because it was high on the “evil meter.”

          -“Here, we can just agree to disagree. Of course, I agree that there was aggression and suffering caused by it, but the degree and intent, I would have to disagree with you. Also, fascism and dictatorship are not the appropriate terms, in my opinion, but hey, we can have different opinions, right?”
          Wow. Axis Japan was neither fascist nor a dictatorship. Sure you can have different opinions. Everyone has different opinions. That’s like saying water is wet. But yours is indicative that Mr. Kelly was if anything, being mild when he said that some Japanese have their heads in the sand.

          -“Who would be the dictator, though? Oh, please don’t say the emperor” You do realize that not all dictatorships are autocracies? Oligarchical regimes have always been referred to as dictatorships as well.

          -“Here is where I am going to ask you again nicely to please stop. Sure, you have a different opinion and I respect that, but Nazi Germany is just not comparable to anything else. I am not offended just for the Japanese, but for humankind, not to mention the people who were victimized, because by making that comparison, you are belittling the travesty that was Nazi Germany. You can make your points without invoking that, please.”
          Oh horseshit! Really! I had made it clear that no, of course no one is exactly identical to NG. It’s not possible for anyone to be an exact replica of anyone else. But to deny comparisons? Especially given their political similarities? No. This makes about as much sense as saying one cannot compare Stalin and Mao.

          -“Say the person that I hate the most in the world, the person I find most despicable, is accused of murder. If I knew for a fact that he didn’t do it, of course I am not going to call him a murderer. I will stick up for his innocence. I will still hate him and find him despicable, but he is no murderer. Is this a difficult concept to understand?” You know for a fact huh? That’s quite a statement. Failure to prove guilt is not the same as “innocent”. But as I pointed out with the North Korean kidnappings, the Japanese are not immune to making accusations without “solid evidence”. Long before Kim Jong-Il finally copped to at least 13 of them, the Japanese had already been “slandering” North Korea for years. And your response? “You make the best arguments.[/sarcasm].”

          -“Oops, I’ve used up my snark for the day.”
          Snark all you want. All you’ve been doing is showing everyone that you confuse “progressive humanism” with Japanese nationalist hypocrisy.

  7. @EY on August 2, 2015 at 2:35 am
    >“At least the Japanese have not been known to shoot themselves in the foot with their own testimonies.” Were there not previous denials that the Japanese military was involved at all in running the CW system? So now the argument has shifted to claiming that the CWs were in the aggregate voluntary prostitutes.

    Obviously, I was referring to the NK abduction case there but I can play your point. Do you mean to say that when some evidence rolled out, instead of being irrational, inflexible glaciers like they are accused to be, the right wingers evaluated the evidence and told you what it was worth?

    Let’s compare that to their opposition. They went in with their demands even before they had evidence. Understandably the right wingers rebuffed the claim because the accusers had next to nothing (that’s why they were still shaking the tree even as they filed their accusations), and also because let’s face it “involvement” to both sides did not mean just letting them ride on Army ships or reining in the businesses’ excesses. Finally, some evidence rolls out and it is worth a lot less than what was hoped for. Instead of conceding their part of the point, the opposition proves completely inflexible. Hmm…

    >(Although some comments seem to still cling to that argument by shifting as much blame as possible onto Korean collaborators. In which case perhaps the Holocaust should be blamed on Ukraine due to so many Nazi death camp guards actually being Ukrainians?)

    You might find it interesting to note then, that this round the first guy to came with the point that the involved recruiters were Koreans was Korean, not Japanese.

    >Even if there aren’t, you really think Americans bash the Japanese far more than the Nazi Germans or anyone else in history?

    They might bash the Nazis more, but it is much more of a “just history” thing than the Japanese. And one should not underestimate the influence of a House resolution.

    >Once you apologize, the subject can never be mentioned again? Actually, Germany still does get demands for compensation for WWII and recently some Indian politicians have advocated demanding reparations from Britain. Some African-Americans also believe that their race is owed reparations from the US govt. for slavery.

    If you consider the societal purpose of apologies (a ritual so both sides can get over past wrongs and look to the future), the answer is close to yes. If it must be mentioned, it should be in a low-key, non-inflammatory manner, which is certainly not the way it is playing out.

    And while it is true your mentioned claims are made, that’s where the fair broker system I mentioned on the last article comes in. While people would probably say it is nice of Germany if it chooses to pay out something for our new claims, little of any blame will accrue if it chooses Enough is Enough. This system is completely broken when it comes to Japan.

    >The old regime was a major fascist dictatorship responsible for tremendous acts of aggression and misery in the name of ethnic supremacy. Was it identical to Nazi Germany? No of course not. Was it comparable to NG? Of course it is.

    At least you and the right-wingers agree on one point. Nazi Germany is BAD. Ain’t it nice to confirm right-winger morals aren’t as warped as so many think after all?

    There will always be a debate over how close A has to be to B before you can call them “comparable”, and if one side (even its past form) is being accused it is even more controversial. Frankly, if the “West” wants apologies, I think it can do itself a big favor by deleting such un-necessary, subjective and inflammatory comparisons out of its essay. Just show the facts and let everyone make up their own minds on how close WWII Japan was to WWII Germany.

    >Not to mention, interesting why they should be so emotionally invested in defending what’s supposed to be “the old regime” (at this point, it’s no use denying that that’s what you’re doing, if you can’t even accept comparisons to fellow fascist dictatorships) when they’re supposed to be a “new democratic” country.

    I actually agree that right-wingers including our sample here do defend the “old regime” to some extent. That is not wrong. That they may be guilty of some things is not a licence to dump everything on them. That’s poor practice even for a principal adjudicating a fight between two boys (one who’s a star student and another who’s not).

    That you take this subjective approach is disappointing, and that others defend at the expense of their reputation is honorable.

    Of course, there is IMO a non-altruisic reason right-wingers take the extra effort, and that’s because they are actually facing the past in a way that Germany and “left-wing” Japan is not doing. What these two do is to preserve their psyches from the past is to put all the badness (alleged and real) into little boxes marked “Nazism” and “IJA”. They don’t have to resist new crimes being tacked on because it doesn’t affect their self-image – it only affects the image of those isolated into little boxes in their minds. They agree to payouts and apologies but to them it is a bit like charity – they are not really feeling that guilty (or at all) but they’ll pay it anyway.

    That’s not really a very intellectually honest approach because let’s face it neither could do what they did without the people supporting them. But it is the approach allowed, even encouraged by the Occupation Authorities and 99% of Germany and a very large chunk of Japan “leapt” at the bait.

    Well, a little intellectual dishonesty is not always bad – we often make little lies and rationalizations to ourselves to keep up self-image and lie a bit to others in the name of social harmony. But, there is a price. In ramming all things bad towards these specific ideologies, they are blackened to the point touching them even at the edges is taboo. Germany is less affected since a country can live without any Nazism, and as it is, the side-seepage from anti-Nazism creates substantial interference which affects for example their Afghan deployments.

    Japan eats it worse because it is anti-militarism, and in a hostile world, a large country cannot live without a certain degree of militarism. Anti-militarism manifests in the form of people opposing even the most mild security measures. This becomes a constant thorn in the side to both Japan and US governments, to say the least.

    Anyway, right-wingers reject this mental model. What happened from 1895 to 1945 is part of Japan’s past, part of *their* identity (at least to the extent the atom bomb droppings and black slavery are part of modern American identity). And when you think like that, you’d inevitably be more exacting over what claims you’ll accept.

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