Japanese government whitewashes war crimes, historians criticize


This video says about itself:

Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

28 January 2015

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul.

By Ben McGrath:

Historians condemn Japan’s whitewashing of war crimes

11 May 2015

Last Tuesday, 187 prominent historians from universities in the United States, Canada, Australia and other countries published an open letter criticizing the Japanese government of Shinzo Abe for continuing to whitewash past war crimes.

The statement entitled, “Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan,” takes aim at the Abe government’s stance on “comfort women,”—a euphemism for women coerced into becoming sex slaves for the Japanese army during the 1930s and 1940s. It calls for the defense of the “freedom of historical inquiry” in Japan and all countries against nationalistic distortions.

Among the signatories were notable historians such as Herbert Bix, professor emeritus at Binghamton University/State University of New York (SUNY), Ezra Vogel, professor emeritus at Harvard University, and Bruce Cumings from the University of Chicago. An earlier letter, released by 19 American historians in February, criticized Abe’s efforts to have references on comfort women altered in American university text books.

The comfort women system was established in the early 1930s. While the first women to be involved were Japanese, as the war spread throughout the Pacific, the military turned to its colonies, coercing poor women with phony promises of good jobs in factories. An estimated 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines, and other Asian nations were then taken to brothels and prevented from leaving. Many committed suicide to escape their barbaric treatment.

The open letter stated: “The undersigned scholars of Japanese studies express our unity with the many courageous historians in Japan seeking an accurate and just history of World War II in Asia.” Historians, as well as journalists in Japan, who have published information on war crimes, have been criticized and in some cases threatened with violence by right-wing nationalists, who claim that comfort women were willing prostitutes and that stating otherwise is an affront to Japanese honor.

Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a leading Japanese historian on comfort women, received phone calls and letters threatening his life after he began publishing his research on comfort women in the 1990s. One such note read, “You must die.” In 1992, Yoshimi discovered extensive documents from the 1930s in the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s library (then called the Defense Agency), showing the military’s role in establishing “comfort stations” (military brothels) throughout Asia.

In January of this year, former Asahi Shimbun journalist Takashi Uemura filed a defamation lawsuit against Bungei Shunju, a publisher, and Tsutomu Nishioka, a right-wing professor at Tokyo Christian University and denier of the crimes against comfort women. Nishioka has accused Uemura of faking the information in his articles.

Uemura stated when he filed his lawsuit: “There is a movement in Japan to stop people who want to shine a light on the dark side of history, on the parts of the war that people don’t want to mention.”

Uemura first became the target of Japanese nationalists in 1991, following two articles he wrote on Kim Hak-sun, who is considered to be the first comfort woman to come forward. Uemura was accused of faking his stories and was attacked as the journalist who “fabricated the comfort woman issue.”

Condemnation of Uemura increased last August, following the Asahi Shimbun’s retraction of a series of articles on comfort women published in the 1980s and 1990s that referenced the accounts of Seiji Yoshida, a former soldier who claimed he had rounded up women during World War II in Korea. Historians had dismissed Yoshida’s story by the early 1990s, while emphasizing the clear evidence of the military’s role in establishing comfort stations.

Neither of Uemura’s articles relied on Yoshida’s story, but the retractions further opened the door for attacks on journalists and academics by right-wing nationalists like Nishioka. Not only was Uemura’s life threatened, but Hokusei University, where he is now employed, received bomb threats. Photos of Uemura’s teenage daughter also appeared online with calls to force the girl to commit suicide.

The Abe government strengthened the nationalists’ claims by calling into doubt the 1993 Kono Statement, a formal yet limited apology for the abuse of comfort women during the war in the Pacific, released by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. In June 2014, Abe’s government released a report by five “experts” questioning whether women and young girls were coerced or forced into the military brothels.

Tuesday’s letter goes on to say, “[…] historians have unearthed numerous documents demonstrating the military’s involvement in the transfer of women and oversight of brothels. Important evidence also comes from the testimony of victims. Although their stories are diverse and affected by the inconsistencies of memory, the aggregate record they offer is compelling and supported by the official documents as well as by the accounts of soldiers and others.”

The letter also makes clear the fundamental difference between the comfort women system and justifications by Japanese nationalists that prostitution was common in other theaters of war: “Among the many instances of wartime sexual violence and military prostitution in the twentieth century, the ‘comfort women’ system was distinguished by its large scale and systematic management under the military, and by its exploitation of young, poor, and vulnerable women in areas colonized or occupied by Japan.” [emphasis added]

The open letter comes less than a week after Abe, the most right-wing Japanese prime minister in the postwar period, was warmly welcomed by Obama on a trip to the United States where the prime minister also made a speech to a joint session of Congress, the first Japanese premier to do so. The two sides agreed to new security guidelines to allow Japan to take part in the United States’ imperialist wars.

All of this is bound up with the United States’ “pivot to Asia,” designed to economically subordinate and militarily surround China. Japan has been encouraged by Washington to remilitarize and discard its postwar pacifist constitution, as well as to enflame territorial conflicts in the region. During Abe’s recent trip to the US, Obama once again promised to back Japan in a war with China over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

While the historians’ letter fails to directly tie historical revisionism to preparations for war, that is the purpose of Abe’s campaign: to whip up Japanese nationalism to condition public opinion, particularly young people, for future conflicts.

Monitoring Asian land birds


This video from South Korea is called Japanese Paradise Flycatcher. Parental care by male and female.

From BirdLife:

First steps towards an Asian land bird monitoring programme

By BirdLife Asia, Mon, 13/04/2015 – 10:50

Question: How do we know that many bird species are declining?

Answer: In Europe and North America there are decades of observations and data, gathered by scientists and amateurs that allow us to make accurate estimates of changes in populations over time.

In East Asia, this data has been lacking for much of the region. However, a new agreement between China, Japan, Republic of Korea and Russia is the first step in developing a coordinated monitoring of migratory birds across the region.

In the 1990s, Japanese ornithologists compared nationwide breeding bird survey results from the 1970s and 1990s. They noted some species, such as the Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, had shown significant declines in numbers and distribution. In the first decade of this century, the highly gregarious Yellow-breasted Bunting was also found to be in steep decline. It was speculated that many other migratory land birds in Asia were also declining, however, there were very few researchers available to carry out detailed studies on land bird populations, and so a coordinated framework of joint study was never established.

In November 2010, the idea of land bird monitoring in Asia was raised at a meeting on migratory bird conservation between the Republic of Korea and Japan. It was further discussed at meetings between China, Republic of Korea and Japan and between Russia and China.

These four countries came together for the first time and reached a consensus on moving a regional monitoring scheme forward at the East Asian Land Monitoring Workshop, co-organised by the National Institute of Biological Resources of Korea (NIBR) and BirdLife International, which took place in Jeju, Korea in March 2015.

BirdLife International has been working with these four founding countries on developing a land bird monitoring scheme. At the 26th International Ornithological Congress held in Tokyo in August 2014, BirdLife International organised a Round-table discussion on land bird monitoring and conservation in Asia. Opinions from ornithologists at the round-table was presented at a side-event jointly organised with the NIBR at the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Pyongchang, Korea in October 2014, which helped to bring Korea, China, Russia and Japan representatives to consider the feasibility of a land bird monitoring scheme.

At the bilateral meetings between China, Republic of Korea and Japan held in Deqing, China, November 2014, Simba Chan, Senior Conservation Officer of BirdLife International Asia Division (Tokyo Office) was nominated by the three countries as the international coordinator for developing this monitoring scheme. At the Land Bird Monitoring Workshop in Jeju, his coordinator role was again confirmed by all four countries.

BirdLife and BirdLife partners will play a useful part in linking countries and NGOs together, and to provide technical support. At the workshop in Jeju, Dr Richard Gregory of RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) was invited to present the experience of the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme as an example for development of a similar scheme in Asia.

Two types of monitoring have been proposed: standardised bird ringing, and field census techniques. While bird ringing has the advantage of revealing secretive species, it would be labour intensive and expensive to cover a wide range of many sites over Asia. Field surveys by volunteers could fill the gaps of survey sites and raise public participation and awareness of common birds.

“In the last decade birdwatching has become increasingly popular in China. We believe birdwatchers will play an important role in data gathering”, said Simba Chan. “With sufficient training and reference material in their national language, it should not be difficult to start a wide range monitoring scheme in China and many other Asian countries.”

Wolves helped by Syria-Israel conflict


This 2009 video says about itself:

The demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea has become an accidental paradise for wildlife.

Bloody wars and other deplorable human conflicts usually have bad consequences for the environment and for wildlife. However, in some cases they may have unexpected positive side effects for wildlife. Like for wildlife in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. For leopards in minefields left from the Iran-Iraq war. For Nubian nightjars in minefields in the Israel-Jordan border area.

Or, sometimes, for wolves.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Living in a minefield: the wolves of the Golan Heights

In the Golan Heights, a dangerous minefield provides an unlikely wildlife reserve where wolves are thriving

Arian D Wallach, Churchill Fellow, Dingo for Biodiversity Project, Charles Darwin University, Australia

Friday 6 February 2015 11.51 GMT

Sitting in the cold of an open jeep, we are waiting for dawn. The thick snow provides some reflective light and we strain our eyes, hoping to catch a glimpse of the wolf pack as they return home from their night’s hunt. This family of wolves holds one of the safest territories a large predator could possibly hope for: a minefield in the Golan Heights, near the Israel-Syria border.

One step outside the barbed-wire fence, however, and the wolves must be very careful. Although wolves are provided with substantial legal protection from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) – enabling one of the greatest wolf recoveries in the world – they are hunted, culled and poached across the region. In an effort to appease ranchers who fear for their livestock while simultaneously conserving this growing wolf population, three management zones were delineated.

In the southern Golan Heights, ranchers can legally shoot wolves, and may even be rewarded with a generous bounty. Further north, wolves can also be hunted, but only by special permit issued by the INPA. Hunting wolves is forbidden inside national parks, and carries a heavy penalty, but poaching does occur occasionally, and can be difficult to enforce. Throughout the Golan, the INPA kills wolves, in a controversial effort to limit their population.

Itamar Yairi, a photographer who has been closely observing the Golan wolves for the past two years, witnessed the potentially dire consequences for those who venture out of the minefields.

The pack Itamar follows, led by a distinctly large and beautiful matriarch, chose to conceal their pups in a den just a few meters outside the minefield’s perimeter. “They were living like royalty, completely relaxed,” Itamar tells me. “Lying in the sun all day, playing and resting, watching over their pups, and then going out under the cover of darkness to hunt.” But one morning Itamar arrived to find a tragedy. The wolves were gone, and inside the pup’s den he found a box of meat laced with poison.

Poisoning wolves is strictly illegal in Israel, but occasionally it does happen, causing extensive deaths of wolves and other wildlife including jackals, foxes, wild boar and raptors. The death of wolves is bound to ripple through every facet of the Golan ecosystem, from the gazelles and wild boar that they hunt, and the jackals that they dominate, to the entire fabric of the remnant oak woodlands.

For several months Itamar could not find his wolf pack, but slowly, one by one, some of them reappeared: the matriarch and her mate and their two adult daughters returned, but their adult son is gone, and so are the pups. “I don’t want to know what happened to them,” he says.

Wolves live in extended family units, in which only one pair reproduces and the entire pack cooperate in raising and educating the young. They hunt together, patrol their territory together, and are deeply bonded to one another. Some wolves stay with their parents well into adulthood. It is these social ties that make wolves such powerful ecological players. It is the pack – not the individual wolf – that is the apex predator.

The loss of pack members is therefore a terrible blow, both to the wolves and the ecosystem. “They haven’t fully recovered from the loss,” Itamar tells me. “I only hope that they keep their next litter of pups deep inside the minefield.”

In 2010, 11-year-old Daniel Yuval was badly injured when he accidentally wandered into a snow-covered minefield, detonating a land mine during a family hike near the village of Merom Golan. Daniel lost his leg, and his sister sustained serious injuries. The incident sparked a global campaign to clear land mines, and the Israel Defence Force (IDF) responded by improving the visibility of warning signs and fence maintenance. Landmines remain common and deadly however, and in 2013, Roi Alphi, a Combat Engineering Corps soldier, was killed during an accident in an operation to clear anti-tank mines in the southern Golan.

The landmines and the tensely patrolled militarised zone make it a dangerous and forbidding place for humans, but a sanctuary for the wolves. “I have watched the wolves running towards the minefields, only to slow down to an easy trot when they pass the fence,” Itamar explains. “If the mines go, so will the wildlife.”

As the day breaks, the sun lights the massive fence running along the Israel-Syria border. Beyond the fence we watch the sleeping Syrian town of Quneitra. There is no sign of electricity, nor is there smoke rising from a chimney. I wonder how they warm their homes on this bitterly cold morning. We can hear occasional gunfire, but Amir Drori, jeep tour guide and local resident, tells me that this is a relatively quiet day. “Its too cold to fight. We have in a way gotten used to the sound of heavy gunfire and explosions from our neighbours on the other side of the fence.”

We did not see Itamar’s pack that morning, but we did find their tracks crossing in and out of the minefield a short distance away.

Japanese government, corporate media whitewash World War II sex slavery


This video from South Korea is called South Korean ambassador to UN calls on Japan to solve sex slave issue swiftly.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Japanese newspaper retracts term ‘sex slaves’ from wartime coverage

Attempts to portray women who were forced to work in brothels as willing prostitutes at odds with mainstream historical opinion

Justin McCurry in Tokyo

Friday 28 November 2014 11.44 GMT

Japan’s biggest-selling newspaper has apologised for its past use of the term “sex slaves” to describe tens of thousands of women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during the second world war.

The move by the Yomiuri Shimbun, a conservative broadsheet with a daily circulation of more than 10 million, has fuelled concern that sections of the country’s media have signed up to a government-led campaign to rewrite Japan’s wartime history and portray its actions on the Asian mainland in a more favourable light.

Revisionist attempts to portray the women as willing prostitutes hired by private brokers has soured Tokyo’s relations with South Korea, where many of the victims came from. The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has yet to hold a bilateral summit with his counterpart in Seoul, Park Geun-hye, since he took office in December 2012.

In a statement carried in its Japanese and English-language editions, the Yomiuri said it would continue to use the phrase “so-called comfort women”, a more ambiguous wording critics say downplays the women’s plight.

Many mainstream historians and overseas media use “sex slaves” to describe as many as 200,000 women – mostly from the Korean peninsula – who were forced to work in frontline brothels until Japan’s defeat in 1945.

The Yomiuri said the “inappropriate” descriptions had appeared on numerous occasions in its English-language edition the Daily Yomiuri, now known as the Japan News, for more than a decade up to 2013. …

In line with claims made by leading conservative politicians that there is no evidence that the military coerced the women, the Yomiuri said the previous wording had created the mistaken impression that sexual enslavement was official wartime policy.

“The Yomiuri Shimbun apologises for having used these misleading expressions and will add a note stating that they were inappropriate to all the articles in question in our database,” the paper said in a statement printed in the Japan News on Friday.

The paper cited 97 articles published between 1992 and 2013 that used “sex slave” or “other inappropriate expressions”.

The Yomiuri, a staunch supporter of the governing Liberal Democratic party, said “sex slaves” had never been used in its Japanese edition.

“The expression ‘comfort women” was difficult to understand for non-Japanese who did not have knowledge of the subject. Therefore the Daily Yomiuri, based on an inaccurate perception and using foreign news agencies’ reports as reference, added such explanations as ‘women who were forced into sexual slavery’ that did not appear in The Yomiuri Shimbun’s original stories,” the paper said.