Discussion: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto and GOJ WWII Sexual Slavery System: A brave debate that is suddenly and disingenuously circumspect
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on May 27th, 2013
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Hi Blog. Posters on Debito.org have been champing at the bit to talk about Osaka Mayor Hashimoto’s controversial statements on the GOJ WWII sexual slavery program (which also involved NJ and colonial slaves, making this a Debito.org issue). So let’s have at it as a Discussion in a separate blog entry.
Below are Hashimoto’s statements to foreign press shortly before he appeared at the FCCJ on May 27. While I am disinclined to comment on the historical specifics (as I haven’t studied the WWII Sexual Slavery aka Comfort Women Issue sufficiently to make informed statements), I will say this about what Hashimoto’s doing: He’s bringing the issue to the fore for public scrutiny.
Bring this before public scrutiny in itself is a good thing. Too many times we have had bigoted, racist, sexist, and plain ahistorical statements by Japan’s public officials downplayed by the media, resulting in predictable backpedaling and claiming that comments were “for a domestic audience only”. This is typically followed by snap resignations without sufficient debate or correction (or, in recent years, people not resigning at all and just waiting for the next media cycle for things to blow over), undercarpet sweeping, and a renewed regional toxic aftertaste: How Japan’s elite status in Asia under America’s hegemony allows it to remain historically unrepentant and a debate Galapagos in terms of historical accountability. Japan’s media generally lacks the cojones to bring the xenophobic and bigoted to account for their statements (after all, Hashimoto to this day has not developed a filter for his role as public official; he still talks like the outspoken lawyer he was when appearing on Japanese TV as a pundit). So having him show some unusual backbone before the foreign press is something more Japanese in positions of power should do. Let’s have the debate warts and all, and let the historians debunk the ahistorical claims being made. But the claims have to be made clearly in the first place before they can be debunked.
The bad thing going on here, in my view, is that Hashimoto is rationalizing and normalizing sexual slavery as a universal part of war — as if “blaming Japan” is wrong because everyone allegedly did it. In his words, “It would be harmful, not only to Japan but also to the world, if Japan’s violation of the dignity of women by soldiers were reported and analyzed as an isolated and unique case, and if such reports came to be treated as common knowledge throughout the world.” That is: Japan did nothing all that wrong because it did nothing unusually wrong.
Hashimoto is also denying that the GOJ was “intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women”. And that is wrong both morally and factually. It is also wrong because working backwards from a conclusion of relativism. People (especially those of Hashimoto, Abe, and Ishihara’s political bent) have the tendency to not want to view their “beautiful country” “negatively” as the bad guy in the movie. Therefore their countrymen’s behavior must have been within context as part of the “normal”, because to them it is inconceivable that people could possibly have acted differently in the same circumstances.
But not only is this a dishonest assessment of history (EVERY country, yes, has a history that has shameful periods; the trick is not to cover them up, as Hashimoto’s ilk seeks to do, down to Japan’s education curriculum), but it is also disingenuously circumspect: For Hashimoto’s ilk, not only must Japan be seen ACCURATELY (as they see it), it must be seen NICELY. That’s simply not possible for certain time periods in Japan’s history.
At least Hashimoto is willing to boldly present that side for people to shoot down. Hopefully he will lose his political career because of it, for a man like this is unfit to hold political office. But it is more “honest” than the alternative.
Hashimoto’s statements follow in English and Japanese, plus an AJW article on the FCCJ Q&A. After that, let’s have some comments from Debito.org Readers. But an advance word of warning: Although this falls under Discussions (where I moderate comments less strictly), the sensitive and contentious nature of this subject warrants a few advance ground rules: Comments will NOT be approved if a) they seek to justify sexual slavery or human trafficking in any form, b) they try to claim that Hashimoto was misquoted without comparing the misquote to his exact quote, or c) they claim historical inaccuracy without providing credible historical sources. In sum, commenters who seek to justify Hashimoto’s ahistorical stances will have to do more homework to be heard on Debito.org. Conversely, comments will more likely be approved if they a) stick to the accuracy or logic of Hashimoto’s statements, b) talk about the debate milieu within Japan regarding this topic, c) take up specific claims and address them with credible sources. Go to it. But make sure in the course of arguing that you don’t sound like Hashimoto and his ilk yourself. Arudou Debito
Statement by Toru Hashimoto
Asahi Shimbun, Asia and Japan Watch, May 27, 2013, courtesy of JDG
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimioto issues a statement ahead of his press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo.
* * *
Ideals and values on which I stand:
Today, I want to start by talking about my basic ideals as a politician and my values as a human being.
Nothing is more regrettable than a series of media reports on my remarks with regard to the issue of so-called “comfort women.” These reports have created an image of me, both as a politician and as a human being, which is totally contrary to my real ideals and values. This has happened because only a portion of each of my remarks has been reported, cut off from the whole context.
I attach the utmost importance to the universal values of human rights, freedom, equality and democracy, whose universality human beings have come to accept in the twenty-first century. As a constitutionalist, I also believe that the essential purpose of a nation’s constitution is to bind government powers with the rule of law and to secure freedom and rights of the people. Without such legal limitations imposed by the constitution, the government powers could become arbitrary and harmful to the people.
My administrative actions, first as Governor of Osaka Prefecture and then as Mayor of Osaka City, have been based on these ideals and values. The views on political issues that I have expressed in my career so far, including my view of the Japanese constitution, testify to my commitment to the ideals and values. I am determined to continue to embody these ideals and values in my political actions and statements.
As my ideals and values clearly include respect for the dignity of women as an essential element of human rights, I find it extremely deplorable that news reports have continued to assume the contrary interpretation of my remarks and to depict me as holding women in contempt. Without doubt, I am committed to the dignity of women.
What I really meant by my remarks on so-called “comfort women”
I am totally in agreement that the use of “comfort women” by Japanese soldiers before and during the World War 2 was an inexcusable act that violated the dignity and human rights of the women in which large numbers of Korean and Japanese were included. I am totally aware that their great pain and deep hurt were beyond description.
I also strongly believe that Japan must reflect upon its past offenses with humility and express a heartfelt apology and regret to those women who suffered from the wartime atrocities as comfort women. Our nation must be determined to stop this kind of tragedy from occurring again.
I have never condoned the use of comfort women. I place the greatest importance on the dignity and human rights of women as an essential part of the universal values in today’s world. It is extremely regrettable that only the cut-off parts of my remarks have been reported worldwide and that these reports have resulted in misunderstood meanings of the remarks, which are utterly contrary to what I actually intended.
We must express our deep remorse at the violation of the human rights of these women by the Japanese soldiers in the past, and make our apology to the women. What I intended to convey in my remarks was that a not-insignificant number of other nations should also sincerely face the fact that their soldiers violated the human rights of women. It is not a fair attitude to blame only Japan, as if the violation of human rights of women by soldiers were a problem unique to the Japanese soldiers. This kind of attitude shelves the past offenses that are the very things we must face worldwide if we are truly to aim for a better world where the human rights of women are fully respected. Sexual violation in wartime was not an issue unique to the former Japanese army. The issue existed in the armed forces of the U.S.A., the UK, France, Germany and the former Soviet Union among others during World War 2. It also existed in the armed forces of the Republic of Korea during the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Against this historical background, I stated that “the armed forces of nations in the world” seemed to have needed women “during the past wars”. Then it was wrongly reported that I myself thought it as necessary for armed forces to use women and that “I” tolerated it.
It is a hard historical fact that soldiers of some nations of the world have used women for sexual purposes in wars. From the viewpoint of respecting the human rights of women, it does not make much difference whether the suffering women are licensed or unlicensed prostitutes and whether or not the armed forces are organizationally involved in the violation of the dignity of the women. The use of women for sexual purposes itself is a violation of their dignity. It also goes without saying that rape of local citizens by soldiers in occupied territories and hot spots of military conflict are intolerable atrocities.
Please do not misunderstand, and think that I intend to relativize or justify the issue of comfort women for former Japanese soldiers. Such justification has never been my intention. Whatever soldiers of other nations did will not affect the fact that the violation of the dignity of women by the former Japanese soldiers was intolerable.
What I really meant in my remarks was that it would be harmful, not only to Japan but also to the world, if Japan’s violation of the dignity of women by soldiers were reported and analyzed as an isolated and unique case, and if such reports came to be treated as common knowledge throughout the world. It would suppress the truth that the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers not only existed in the past but also has yet to be eradicated in today’s world. Based on the premise that Japan must remorsefully face its past offenses and must never justify the offenses, I intended to argue that other nations in the world must not attempt to conclude the matter by blaming only Japan and by associating Japan alone with the simple phrase of “sex slaves” or “sex slavery.”
If only Japan is blamed, because of the widely held view that the state authority of Japan was intentionally involved in the abduction and trafficking of women, I will have to inform you that this view is incorrect.
While expecting sensible nations to voice the issue of the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers, I believe that there is no reason for inhibiting Japanese people from doing the same. Because the Japanese people are in a position to face the deplorable past of the use of comfort women by the former Japanese soldiers, to express deep remorse and to state their apology, they are obliged to combat the existing issue of the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers, and to do so in partnership with all the nations which also have their past and/or present offenses.
Today, in the twenty-first century, the dignity and human rights of women have been established as a sacred part of the universal values that nations in the world share. It is one of the greatest achievements of progress made by human beings. In the real world, however, the violation of the dignity of women by soldiers has yet to be eradicated. I hope to aim for a future world where the human rights of women will be more respected. Nevertheless, we must face the past and present in order to talk about the future. Japan and other nations in the world must face the violation of the human rights of women by their soldiers. All the nations and peoples in the world should cooperate with one another, be determined to prevent themselves from committing similar offenses again, and engage themselves in protecting the dignity of women at risk in the world’s hot spots of military conflict and in building that future world where the human rights of women are respected.
Japan must face, and thoroughly reflect upon, its past offenses. Any justification of the offenses will not be tolerated. Based on this foundation, I expect other nations in the world to face the issue of the sexual violations in the past wars as their own issue. In April this year, the G8 Foreign Ministers in London agreed upon the “Declaration on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.” Based on this accomplishment, I expect that the G8 Summit to be held in this June in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, the UK, will become an important occasion where the leaders of G8 will examine how soldiers from nations in the world, including the former Japanese soldiers, have used women for sexual purposes, face and reflect upon the past offenses with humility, solve today’s problems in partnership with one another, and aim for the ideal future.
With regard to my remark in the discussion with the U.S. commander in Okinawa
There was a news report that, while visiting a U.S. military base in Okinawa, I recommended to the U.S. commander there that he make use of the adult entertainment industry to prevent U.S. soldiers from committing sexual crimes. That was not what I meant. My real intention was to prevent a mere handful of U.S. soldiers from committing crimes and strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and the relations of trust between the two nations. In attempting to act on my strong commitment to solving the problem in Okinawa stemming from crimes committed by a minority of U.S. soldiers, I made an inappropriate remark. I will elaborate my real intention as follows.
For the national security of Japan, the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the most important asset, and I am truly grateful to contributions made by the United States Forces Japan.
However, in Okinawa, where many U.S. military bases are located, a small number of U.S. soldiers have repeatedly committed serious crimes, including sexual crimes, against Japanese women and children. Every time a crime has occurred, the U.S. Forces have advocated maintaining and tightening official discipline and have promised to the Japanese people that they would take measures to stop such crimes from occurring again. Nevertheless, these crimes have not stopped. The same pattern has been repeating itself.
I emphasize the importance of the Japan-U.S. Alliance and greatly appreciate the U.S. Forces’ contribution to Japan. Nonetheless, the anger of the Okinawan people, whose human rights have continued to be violated, has reached its boiling point. I have a strong wish to request that the U.S.A. face the present situation of Okinawa’s suffering from crimes committed by U.S. soldiers, and take necessary measures to alleviate the problem.
It is a big issue that incidents of sexual violence have frequently happened without effective control within the U.S. military forces worldwide. It has been reported that President Obama has shown a good deal of concern over the forces’ frequent reports of military misconduct and has instructed the commanders to thoroughly tighten their official discipline, as measures taken so far have had no immediate effect.
With all the above-mentioned situations, I felt a strong sense of crisis and said to the U.S. commander that the use of “the legally accepted adult entertainment industry in Japan” should be considered as one of all the possible measures. Even if there is no measure with an immediate effect, the current state of Okinawa should not be neglected. From my strong sense of crisis, I strongly hope that the U.S. army will use all possible measures to bring a heartless minority of soldiers under control. When expressing this strong hope, I used the phrase “the legally accepted adult entertainment industry in Japan.” When this phrase was translated into English, it led to the false report that I recommended prostitution–which is illegal under Japanese law. Furthermore, my remark was misunderstood to mean that something legally acceptable is also morally acceptable. Although the adult entertainment industry is legally accepted, it can insult the dignity of women. In that case, of course, some measures should be taken to prevent such insults.
However, I understand that my remark could be construed as an insult to the U.S. Forces and to the American people, and therefore was inappropriate. I retract this remark and express an apology. In conclusion, I retract my inappropriate remarks to the U.S. Army and the American people and sincerely apologize to them. I wish that my apologies to them will be accepted and that Japan and the United States of America continue to consolidate their relationship of alliance in full trust.
My real intention was to further enhance the security relationship between Japan and the United States, which most U.S. soldiers’ sincere hard work has consolidated, and to humbly and respectfully ask the U.S. Forces to prevent crimes committed by a mere handful of U.S. soldiers. My strong sense of crisis led to the use of this inappropriate expression.
In the area of human rights, the U.S.A. is one of the most conscientious nations. Human rights are among those values accepted throughout the world as universal. In order for human rights of the Okinawan people to be respected in the same way as those of American people are respected, I sincerely hope that the U.S. Forces will start taking effective measures in earnest to stop crimes in Okinawa from continuing.
About the Japan-Korea Relationship
The Japan-Korea relationship has recently gone through some difficult times. Underlying the difficulty are the issue of comfort women and the territorial dispute over the Takeshima Islands. Ideally, Japan and South Korea should be important partners in East Asia, as they share the same values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. I believe that a closer relationship based on greater trust between Japan and South Korea would contribute to the stability and prosperity of not only East Asia but also the world.
One of the points of tension is that concerning wartime comfort women. Some former comfort women in Korea are currently demanding state compensation from the Japanese government.
However, the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea and the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea, both signed in 1965, have officially and decisively resolved any issues of claims arising from the war, including the right of individual persons to claim compensation. Japan has also performed its moral responsibility with the establishment of the Asian Women’s Fund, and it paid atonement money to former comfort women even after the resolution of the legal contention with the treaties.
The international community has welcomed the Asian Women’s Fund. A report to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations welcomed Japan’s moral responsibility project of the Asian Women’s Fund. Mary Robinson, the second United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave the Fund a favorable evaluation. Unfortunately, however, some former comfort women have refused to accept the atonement money from the Asian Women’s Fund.
Japan has given significant importance to the Treaty on Basic Relations and the Agreement on the Settlement, both of which made final resolution of any legal contention in 1965, and Japan also sincerely faces, reflects on, and apologizes for its own wartime wrongdoings with feelings of deep remorse.
The whole situation poses a rending dilemma for us: how to make such a compensation that former comfort women would accept as our sincere remorse and apology, while also maintaining the integrity of the legal bilateral agreements between Japan and Korea.
The Korean government has recently claimed that interpretive disputes over the individual right of compensation for former comfort women in the Agreement on the Settlement still remain. I hope that the Republic of Korea, as a state governed by the rule of law, recognizes the legal importance of the above-mentioned agreements. If the Republic of Korea still believes that there exist interpretive contentions in the agreements, I think that only the International Court of Justice can resolve them.
One can hope that the same legal/rule-of-law stance is also observed in the resolution of the territorial dispute over the Takeshima Islands.
I firmly believe that neither hatred nor anger can resolve the problems between Japan and Korea. I firmly believe in the importance of legal solution at the International Court of Justice, which arena would allow both sides to maintain rational and legal argument while both maintain both respect for each other and deep sympathy to former comfort women.
I wish to express sincerely my willingness to devote myself to the true improvement of the Japan-Korea relationship through the rule of law.
私の発言の真意は、兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙の問題が旧日本軍のみに特有の問題であったかのように世界で報じられ、それが世界の常識と化すことによって、過去の歴史のみならず今日においても根絶されていない兵士による女性の尊厳の蹂躙の問題の真実に光が当たらないことは、日本のみならず世界にとってプラスにならない、という一点であります。私が言いたかったことは、日本は自らの過去の過ちを直視し、決して正当化してはならないことを大前提としつつ、世界各国もsex slaves、sex slaveryというレッテルを貼って日本だけを非難することで終わってはならないということです。
Hashimoto explains remarks in Q&A session at Tokyo news conference
Hashimoto denies ‘will of state’ in comfort women system
May 27, 2013
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto on May 27 explained his views on “comfort women” and other issues during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. Excerpts from the question and answer session follow:
Question: Are you trying to suggest that other nations were also somehow involved in the managing of wartime brothels like the Japanese military?
Hashimoto: I have absolutely no intention of justifying the wrongs committed by Japan in the past. We have to always carry within our hearts the terrible suffering experienced by the comfort women.
We should also put an end to unreasonable debate on this issue.
Japan should not take the position of trying to avoid its responsibility. That is what causes the greatest anger among the South Korean people.
I want to bring up the issue of sex in the battlefield. I don’t think that the nations of the world have faced their pasts squarely. That obviously includes Japan.
Unless we squarely face the past, we will not be able to talk about the future. Sex in the battlefield has been a taboo subject that has not been discussed openly.
Japan was wrong to use comfort women. But does that mean that it is alright to use private-sector businesses for such services?
Because of the influence of Puritanism, the United States and Britain did not allow the respective governments and militaries to become involved in such facilities. However, it is a historical fact that those two nations used local women for sexual services.
When the United States occupied Japan, the U.S. military used the facilities established by the Japanese government. This is also a historical fact backed by actual evidence.
What I want to say is that it does not matter if the military was involved or if the facilities were operated by the private sector.
There is no doubt that the Japanese military was involved in the comfort stations. There are various reasons, but this is an issue that should be left up to historians.
What occurred in those facilities was very tragic and unfortunate, regardless of whether the military was involved in the facilities or they were operated by private businesses.
Germany had similar facilities as those used by Japan where comfort women worked. Evidence has also emerged that South Korea also had such facilities during the Korean War.
The world is trying to put a lid on all of these facts.
It might be necessary to criticize Japan, but the matter should not be left at that. Today, the rights of women continue to be violated in areas of military conflict. The issue of sex in the battlefield continues to be a taboo.
It is now time to begin discussing this issue.
I have no intention of saying that because the world did it, it was alright for Japan.
Japan did commit wrong, but I hope other nations will also face their pasts squarely.
The past has to be faced squarely in order to protect the rights of women in conflict areas as well as prevent the violation of the rights of women by a handful of heartless soldiers.
Q: Do you feel there is a need to revise or retract the Kono statement on comfort women since there is wording that “the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women,” which indicates trafficking was involved?
A: I have absolutely no intention of denying the Kono statement. I feel that what is written in the statement is generally based on fact.
However, it is ambiguous about a core issue.
You brought up the issue of military involvement in the transport of women. Historical evidence shows that private businesses used military ships to transport the women. Most of the employers at the comfort stations were private businesses. There was military involvement in the form of health checks to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Because a war was going on, military vehicles were used in the transport of the women.
The argument of many Japanese historians is that there is no evidence to show that the will of the state was used to systematically abduct or traffic the women. A 2007 government statement, approved by the Cabinet, also concluded there was no evidence to show the will of the state was used for the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women.
The Kono statement avoided taking a stance on the issue that was of the greatest interest of South Koreans. This is the primary reason relations between the two nations have not improved.
The Kono statement should be made clearer.
Historians of the two nations should work together to clarify the details on this point.
The South Korean argument is that Japan used the will of the state for the systematic abduction and trafficking of the women, while the Japanese position is that there is no evidence for such an argument. This point has to be clarified.
Separately from what I just said, there is no doubt that an apology has to be made to the comfort women.
The core argument that the will of state was used for the systematic abducting and trafficking of women is likely behind the criticism from around the world that the Japanese system was unique.
It was wrong for Japanese soldiers to use comfort women in the past. However, facts have to be clarified as facts. If arguments different from the truth are being spread around the world, then we have to point out the error of those arguments.
Q: Do you agree with the argument by Shintaro Ishihara (co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party) that Japan should not have to apologize for the war because it was forced to fight by the economic sanctions and other measures imposed by the United States?
A: Politicians have discussed whether there was military aggression on the part of Japan or colonial domination of the Korean Peninsula. This is an issue that should be discussed by historians.
Politicians who represent the nation must acknowledge the military aggression and the unforgivable colonial domination of the Korean Peninsula.
Denying those aspects will never convince the victorious nations in the war because of the terrible loss of life that was involved in achieving that end.
Politicians who represent the nation have to acknowledge the responsibility for the nation’s actions during World War II. They have to also reflect on and apologize to neighboring nations for causing terrible damage.
Ishihara does have a different view of the past.
That is likely a generational difference between those who lived through the war and those of my generation who were born after the war. This is a very difficult issue for nations defeated in the war.
Those who lived through the war believed that what their government was doing was the right thing.
The vast majority of Japanese acknowledge the military aggression and colonial domination of the war. However, it is very difficult to have all 120 million Japanese agree on this point since Japan is a democracy.
Politicians of my generation should not stir up questions of Japan’s responsibility in the war. The duty of politicians of my generation should not be to justify what happened in the war, but work toward creating a better future. Politicians of my generation should face the past squarely and use their political energy for the future.
However, that does not mean that we have to remain silent about any wrong understanding of the facts of the war just because Japan was a defeated nation.
Q: Is it your view that what the Japanese military of that time was involved in does not constitute human trafficking in light of the international understanding that any involvement by any individual or organization in any part of the process is defined as human trafficking? Separately, is it your view that the testimony given by women who were forcibly taken by the Japanese military is not credible?
A: I am not denying Japan’s responsibility. Under current international value standards, it is clear that the use of women by the military is not condoned. So, Japan must reflect on that past.
I am not arguing about responsibility, but about historical facts.
I feel the most important aspect of the human trafficking issue is whether there was the will of the state involved. Women were deceived about what kind of work they would do. The poverty situation at that time meant some women had to work there because of the debt they had to shoulder.
However, such things also occurred at private businesses.
I think similar human trafficking occurred at the private businesses that were used by the U.S. and British militaries.
Japan did do something wrong, but human trafficking also occurred at such private businesses.
I feel the human trafficking that occurred at both places was wrong.
I want the world to also focus on that issue that involves other nations.
I am aware that comfort women have given their accounts of what happened. However, there is also historical debate over the credibility of those accounts.
Q: If the government was aware of what was happening at the comfort stations and did nothing, isn’t that a form of government and military involvement; and who should bear responsibility for that?
A: Under the present value system, the state must stop human trafficking.
In that sense, Japan cannot evade responsibility by any means.
We must think now of what the government should do when confronted by such a situation.