Japanese government among world’s worst press freedom violators


This video says about itself:

Press Freedom in Japan in 2016 | Tokyo on Fire

19 December 2015

Japan passed a controversial State Department Secrets law in December of 2013 that has ever since been met with significant resistance. One of the most contentious points is that it punishes both distributers and recipients of SDS material (so, a reporter and a newspaper publisher, for example) with a minimum of 2 years in jail and fine of ¥500,000. Get the details with Timothy, Michael, and Nancy on this important episode of Tokyo on Fire!

From the Los Angeles Times in the USA:

How Japan came to rank worse than Tanzania on press freedom

By Jake Adelstein

April 20, 2016

The state of press freedom in Japan is now worse than that in Tanzania, according to a new ranking from the non-profit group Reporters Without Borders.

A group which is usually favourably biased towards the political and economic establishments in NATO countries, and in other rich countries like Japan.

Japan came in 72nd of the 180 countries ranked in the group’s 2016 press freedom index, falling 11 places since last year. …

For Japan’s journalists, things have taken a turn for the worse relatively recently. Just six years ago, the country ranked 11th in the world.

In the graph which accompanies the Los Angeles Times article, the absolute monarchy Brunei is the worst in the world in decline in press freedom. Poland is third worst.

Japan’s poor performance on press freedom is particularly surprising given its standing as one of the world’s leading developed countries. The island nation of 125 million people has the world’s third-largest economy and a vibrant democracy whose postwar constitution guarantees freedoms of speech, press and assembly.

“With Japan hosting the G7 meeting next month of leading democracies, the press crackdown is an international black eye for Japan and makes it an outlier in the group,” said Jeff Kingston, a professor of history and director of Asian studies at Temple University and author of the book “Contemporary Japan: History, Politics, and Social Change since the 1980s.”

The 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant set the stage for the erosion of press freedoms, Kingston said. “Japan’s slide in the rankings began with the incomplete coverage of the Fukushima meltdowns and the government’s efforts to downplay the accident; Tokyo Electric Power Company (and Japan) denied the triple meltdown for two months,” he said. “Sadly, the Japanese media went along with this charade because here it is all about access. Those media outlets that don’t toe the line find themselves marginalized by the powers that be. Since [Fukushima], Japan’s culture wars over history, constitutional revision and security doctrine have been fought on the media battlefield.”

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned for a second term in 2012, five years after he resigned abruptly amid growing unpopularity in 2007, his administration began cracking down on perceived bias in the nation’s media.

At first, the media didn’t hold back in criticizing his administration. The press lambasted Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso for saying that Japan should learn from the way the Nazi party stealthily changed Germany’s constitution before World War II. But critics say Aso’s suggestion foreshadowed things to come.

Two years ago, the Abe administration pushed through a state secrets bill ostensibly designed to prevent classified information from leaking to China or Russia. But the measure allows for journalists and bloggers to be jailed for up to five years for asking about something that is a state secret, even if they aren’t aware it is one. Thousands protested the law when it was passed on Dec. 6, 2013.

Abe’s friend, conservative businessman Katsuto Momii, became the head of Japan’s major public broadcasting company, NHK, in 2014, in a move that has compromised the independence of its reports. Momii has stated publicly that NHK “should not deviate from the government’s position in its reporting.”

Abe’s Liberal Democratic party also recently proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow the government to curtail speech that “harms the public interest and public order.”

In June 2015, members of the party urged the government to punish media outlets critical of the government and pressure companies not to advertise with them.

This year, Abe’s Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi threatened to shut down news broadcasters over “politically biased reports” — something TV and radio laws in Japan empower her to do.

A week later, three television presenters who had been critical of the Abe administration were all removed from their positions.

Veteran reporters in Japan have criticized Abe’s government for applying pressure to reporters, but also decry the increasing self-censorship going on in the country’s press. “To me, the most serious problem is self-restraint by higher-ups at broadcast stations,” Soichiro Tahara, one of the country’s most revered journalists, told reporters last month.

“The Abe administration’s threats to media independence, the turnover in media personnel in recent months and the increase in self-censorship within leading media outlets are endangering the underpinnings of democracy in Japan,” Reporters Without Borders concluded in its report released this month about declining media freedoms in Japan.

“Independence of the press is facing serious threats,” David Kaye, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Tuesday. “Many journalists who came to me and my team asked for anonymity in our discussions. Many claimed to have been sidelined or silenced following indirect pressure from politicians.”

The state originally invited Kaye to visit last December, but the trip was canceled abruptly after Japanese authorities claimed to be unable to set up meetings in time.

Kaye called for Japan’s Broadcast Law to be revised to ensure press freedom, and criticized Japan’s press club structure as detrimental to an independent press. In Japan, reporters are granted access through press clubs, or “kisha clubs,” formed around groups and government organizations. They serve as gatekeepers, and typically don’t grant access to weekly magazines, like Shukan Bunshun, which excel at investigative journalism.

“Journalists in those kisha clubs tend to be focused very much together in this same kind of social network. And I think that allows for mechanisms of pressure. It may be a kind of peer pressure that’s very difficult to resist,” Kaye said.

Whitewashing war crimes, attacking civil liberties in Japan


This video says about itself:

UN human rights panel calls on Japan to provide compensation to its wartime sex slavery victims

24 July 2014

A UN panel is urging Japan to provide a public apology and compensation to the victims of its wartime system of sex slavery.

The call comes as two elderly victims continue their mission in the United States to raise awareness about the horrors they faced.

Park Ji-won reports.

Two victims of Japan’s wartime system of sexual slavery visited the city of Glendale in California this week.

It’s where a monument dedicated to them and the thousands of other victims,… a bronze statue of a young girl dressed in traditional Korean clothing,… is set up.

“Please help us, the victims, receive an apology before we all die.”

Lee Ok-seon says she was abducted by Japanese soldiers when she was only 15,… and sent to a military brothel.

To this day,… the Japanese government denies its military operated the brothels, despite a huge amount of evidence that shows the military did.

The two women, now in their late 80s, spoke out against some Japanese Americans and Japanese officials who want the statue removed.

“They’re saying really inhumane things.”

Both women will stay in the U.S. for another couple of weeks.

They’ll travel to Virginia and New Jersey and to other monuments set up in memory of all those who suffered under Japan’s cruel system of sexual slavery.

Meanwhile, a UN panel is urging Japan to provide a public apology and compensation to the victims of its wartime sex slave victims before it’s too late.

The UN Human Rights Committee said Thursday that, after reviewing the records of several countries,… it’s concerned about the re-victimization of the former sex slavery victims.

The panel criticized the Japanese government for continuously denying its responsibility and even defaming the victims,… rather than taking the necessary steps to help them.

The committee, made up of 18 independent experts, also noted that every compensation claim brought by victims has been dismissed, and every call to ask for independent investigation on the sex slavery has been rejected in Japan.

Park Ji-won, Arirang News.

From the Japan Times:

Are forces of darkness gathering in Japan?

by Jeff Kingston

May 16, 2015

Certainly it’s worse in China, South Korean security recently beat demonstrators and Spain faces a blanket gag rule, but are concerns about the anti-democratic forces of darkness in Japan unduly alarmist? How bad can it be if protestors in Hibiya Park can carry placards depicting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Adolf Hitler?

Bad enough, alas. New York Times Tokyo bureau chief Martin Fackler, among others, recently implicated Team Abe in getting Shigeaki Koga, a prominent Abe critic, axed from Asahi TV’s “Hodo Station” program.

“I am afraid that media organizations’ self-restraint is spreading and, as a result, accurate information is not reaching the public,” Koga said at a press conference, claiming he was the victim of a political vendetta and corporate media timidity.

Mindful of the orchestrated attacks on the Asahi’s news organs and fearful of right-wing reprisals, self-censorship is a growing problem. Columbia University’s Gerald Curtis told me about the recent cancellation of a planned television interview that was to take place in New York. The local correspondent informed him that the Japanese network’s management in Tokyo nixed the interview because it was going to assess how Abe has handled the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, and this topic was deemed too sensitive.

Curtis says the worrying lesson here is that “the government doesn’t have to muzzle the press if the press takes it upon itself to do the muzzling.”

But the government is taking no chances.

Conservative Abe cronies were appointed to NHK’s top management last year, and Katsuto Momii, a man without any media experience, was named chairman. He later declared to the press, “When the government is saying ‘Right’ we can’t say ‘Left.’”

Since Momii began promoting this curious vision at NHK, staff have complained that managers are strictly insisting on wording that hues to government views on controversial topics such as Yasukuni Shrine, disputed territories and the “comfort women.” To ensure conformity, NHK now publishes an internal censorship manual, called the “Orange Book,” banning the use of the term “sex slaves” and other phrases identified as problematic. NHK insiders told me that some recalcitrant staff suffered career derailments because they didn’t toe the line, including a group that openly called on Momii to step down.

There is no smoking gun, and it could be a routine staff rotation, but an apparent casualty of the purge is NHK’s “News Watch 9″ anchor Kensuke Okoshi, who has spoken out against nuclear power and committed other “transgressions.”

Controversy erupted last summer when Naoki Hyakuta, a best-selling writer and conservative on history issues, was handpicked by Abe to serve on NHK’s board of governors. Hyakuta criticized Okoshi’s on-air comments about ethnic Korean residents in Japan that were aired July 17, 2014. Okoshi said: “The first-generation Korean residents were those who were forcibly brought to Japan or moved to the country to seek jobs after the annexation of Korea in 1910. They had a lot of difficulties establishing their foundations for living.”

At the subsequent NHK board of governors meeting, Hyakuta reportedly asked: “Is it acceptable to say ethnic Korean residents are those who were forcibly taken by Japan? That is wrong.”

The acting chair informed Hyakuta that as a governor, comments about the content of an individual program violated the broadcasting law. Hyakuta has since resigned his position, complaining he wasn’t able to have any impact, but one can imagine that NHK staff felt his presence, and indeed Okoshi is no longer a newscaster despite being one of the most respected in the business.

“The systematic suppression of the press and freedom of speech by the Abe government and its functionaries is very, very disturbing in terms of its effects on the future course of Japan and its democracy,” says Ayako Doi, a journalist based in the United States who is currently an associate fellow of the Asia Society. In her view, things have gotten significantly worse under Abe. She cites the Liberal Democratic Party’s summons of Japanese media executives, the Japanese consul general in Frankfurt’s visit to the editors of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and a Foreign Ministry official’s visit to publisher McGraw-Hill in New York to ask for changes in the descriptions of Japan’s comfort women system of sexual slavery written in a U.S. history textbook.

“They have become more numerous, blatant and unapologetic,” she says, adding that the government is targeting both Japanese and non-Japanese critics alike.

Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark says the atmosphere of intimidation has become exceptionally “ugly,” attributing it to a “right-wing rebound and revenge.”

“Something strange is going on,” he says, citing recent attacks on progressive media. “Particularly given that Tokyo keeps talking about its value identification with the West.”

Well-placed sources in Washington previously told me that even overseas the Japanese government actively disparages Abe’s critics, something that Doi isn’t surprised by.

“It seems that under the Abe government, efforts to silence critics of his policies and interpretation of history have become systematic,” she says. “It now appears to be a concerted effort orchestrated by Kantei (the prime minister’s office).”

Japan’s right-wing media also engages in trans-Pacific intimidation. For example, a rightwing pundit slammed the National Bureau of Asian Research’s Japan-U.S. Discussion Forum, making groundless accusations about an anti-Japan bias. He also attacked the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnership for sponsoring a research project regarding Sino-Japanese relations and history issues. This research project was deemed a waste of Japanese taxpayers’ money and some of the researchers were subject to defamatory attacks on their professional integrity. But it would be a sad day for Japanese democracy if the right wing gets to set the research agenda, pick the scholars and decide what they should conclude.

Clark himself was publicly defamed for his alleged anti-Japanese views because he raised some questions about government and media representations concerning the North Korean abductions of Japanese nationals. Following that, he says his university employer received a cascade of threatening letters demanding he be sacked.

“Requests to write articles for the magazines and newspapers I had long known dried up,” Clark says. “Invitations to give talks on Japan’s lively lecture circuit died overnight. One of Japan’s largest trading companies abruptly canceled my already-announced appointment as outside board director with the vague excuse of wanting to avoid controversy.”

Lamentably, he added, “You cannot expect anyone to come to your aid once the nationalistic right-wing mood creators, now on the rise, decide to attack you. Freedom of speech and opinion is being whittled away relentlessly.”

Exposing such orchestrated attacks and highlighting the dangers of self-censorship are all the more important in contemporary Japan because, as Doi puts it, media freedom is “sliding down a slippery slope” and it’s important to “speak out before the momentum becomes unstoppable.”

Jeff Kingston is the director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan.

A group of 524 historians and other academics last week released a statement critical of the Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan and its whitewashing of past war crimes. They included 37 Western scholars, 105 from Japan, and 382 from South Korea. This latest statement follows similar ones earlier this year: here.

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.

Japanese government lies on ‘comfort women’, people protest


This video from South Korea says about itself:

“Herstory” Comfort Women Animation – English

15 January 2014

Produced with actual voices of the victims of the Japanese Military’s ‘Comfort Women‘ [policy].

By Ben McGrath:

Opposition to Japanese government’s lies on “comfort women”

27 February 2015

Opposition to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempt to whitewash the history of the Japanese military’s war crimes has emerged in Japan and also the United States. Earlier this month, a group of American historians issued a statement criticizing the Abe government’s attempts to pressure a US publishing company McGraw-Hill to amend its textbook’s treatment of so-called “comfort women.”

During the 1930s and 1940s, some 200,000 Korean, Chinese and other women were coerced into sex slavery in “comfort stations” established for Japanese officers and soldiers. Abe and other right-wing nationalists falsely claim that the women were not forced but willingly acted as prostitutes. This revision of history is bound up with the government’s plans to remilitarize and to end the current constitutional restrictions on the dispatch of the Japanese military in overseas interventions and wars.

Abe’s efforts to rewrite history could cloud plans for him to address a joint session of the US Congress, which, according to the Japan Times last weekend, could take place in late April. He would become the first Japanese prime minister to speak to Congress since 1961 when Hayato Ikeda addressed the House of Representatives. Abe’s grandfather, Nobsuke Kishi, also spoke before Congress as prime minister in 1957.

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers who visited Japan last week raised questions about Abe’s view of history. Democrat Congresswoman Diana DeGette warned that the issues surrounding World War II “could really put some cracks in the relationship… It’s really important that Japan not be seen as backtracking… on the comfort women issue and some other issues around the end of the war.”

Republican congressman James Sensenbrenner told the Wall Street Journal that Abe’s “revisionist history” was hurting “Japan’s standing with its neighbors. That has to be cooled down.” His warning reflects concerns in Washington that the Abe government’s whitewash of Japanese war crimes was undermining relations with South Korea, the other major US ally in North East Asia.

Regardless of these misgivings, Abe’s congressional address appears to be going ahead. The Obama administration regards Tokyo as a crucial ally in its “pivot to Asia” and military build-up throughout the Indo-Pacific region against China.

It should be noted that the criticisms of Abe’s stance on Japan’s atrocities are rather hypocritical. The US political establishment remains silent on its own crimes during World War II, including the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the firebombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities.

Within Japan, right-wing nationalist groups continue to wage a vicious campaign against the Asahi Shimbun after it retracted a series of articles last August based on the testimony of Seiji Yoshida, a former soldier, who claimed to have forcibly rounded up “comfort women” on Korea’s Jeju Island. Yoshida later admitted that he had made up parts of his story, which has been seized on to claim there is no evidence that women were coerced into sex slavery and to demand the retraction of Japan’s 1993 Kono statement—a formal, but limited apology over the abuse of “comfort women.”

In an interview last month with the Asia-Pacific Journal, Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a leading historian on comfort women, said in, “As early as 1993 at the latest, no one took seriously Yoshida’s testimony claiming that he had witnessed the Japanese Army’s forcible relocation of women in Jeju Island. The Kono Statement was not based on Yoshida’s testimony. Nor do scholars researching the comfort women issue draw on it for their argument. In short, Asahi’s retraction of Yoshida’s testimony due to its falsity should not affect the discussion.”

Other former Japanese soldiers have provided evidence of the military’s system of sexual slavery. Masayoshi Matsumoto, currently 92, has spoken out against the crimes he witnessed as an army medic. “I feel like a war criminal. It is painful to speak of such things and I would rather cover it up. It is painful, but I must speak,” he said in a 2013 interview with Reuters.

In a more recent interview in the Asia-Pacific Journal in October 2014, Matsumoto described working at a base in Yu County in Shanxi Province in China during the war. “Our battalion had approximately one thousand men. We took about 5 or 6 ‘comfort women’ with us. I was a corpsman…I had to help the army doctor to do tests for venereal disease on comfort women.”

After describing the instruments and testing methods, Matsumoto said, “These [women] had definitely not arrived there of their own will. Nobody would be willing to travel to such a remote area. The money was handled by Japanese civilians employed by the military, who took care of the women.”

Matsumoto made clear that rape of captured village women was rampant and that the setting up of the “comfort stations,” where soldiers forced women to have sex, was an attempt to curb the spread of disease among the troops. Matsumoto described finding several women in a captured village.

“When we raided a village, there happened to be some villagers left behind. Normally during a raid all the villagers would flee. Among them were seven or eight women. The soldiers grabbed them and took them away to the barracks. Knowing that they would be killed if they resisted, these women came along without resisting. The women were made to live inside the barracks, and whenever the soldiers felt like it they would visit them to have sex,” he said.

Matsumoto explained why he spoke out: “While reading all kind of things, I realized that if we don’t face our past squarely, we’re bound to repeat the same mistakes. When I look at Abe, I think he’s starting to do exactly that. Someone needs to speak up.” Asked about Abe’s claim that there was no coercion of women, Matsumoto responded: “Such a thing is not true! It’s…nonsense. A lie.”

The evidence proving that the Japanese army engaged in the wide-scale and systematic coercion of women into its “comfort stations” is not limited to such personal accounts, but has been found in wartime documents unearthed by historians. Nevertheless Matsumoto’s first-hand testimony is not only telling refutation of Abe’s lies but also points to the fact that the whitewashing of war crimes is the preparation for new ones.

Japan upholds rule that married couples must have same surname. Court decision is a setback for campaigners who argued 19th-century law violates civil rights and in practice forces women to take their husband’s name: here.

Japanese government censorship on World War II crimes


This video says about itself:

Comfort Woman

Through painting, a Korean woman breaks her 50 years of silence on being forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during World War II.

By Ben McGrath:

Japanese ministers visit Yasukuni war shrine

24 October 2014

Three Japanese ministers visited the notorious Yasukuni Shrine on Saturday, continuing the push by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s right-wing government to revive militarism and whitewash the war crimes committed by the Japanese army during World War II. Saturday’s visit came a day after 110 lawmakers went to the shrine.

The ministers were Sanae Takaichi, the internal affairs and communication minister, Eriko Yamatani, the head of the National Public Safety Commission, and Haruko Arimura, the minister tasked with promoting female empowerment. All three women were added to Abe’s cabinet during the shakeup that took place in September.

Abe, who visited the shrine in December 2013, the first sitting prime minister to do so since Junichiro Koizumi in 2006, did not attend Yasukuni last weekend. However, he sent an offering, the third this year—along with one sent in spring and another on August 15, the anniversary of the end of World War II.

The Yasukuni Shrine is a symbol of Japanese militarism, where those who died in Japan’s wars, primarily World War II, are symbolically interred, including 14 class A war criminals. An associated museum has military displays and literature that downplay such crimes as the Nanjing massacre, during which the Japanese army murdered an estimated 300,000 captured Chinese soldiers and civilians in 1937.

The Chinese government released a statement, saying: “China would like to reiterate that Sino-Japan relations can only realize healthy and stable development when Japan seriously faces up to and repents of its aggressive past and disassociates itself with militarism.” While there are legitimate fears among working people about the re-emergence of Japanese militarism, the Beijing regime exploits those concerns to whip up Chinese nationalism.

Abe has held off going to the shrine this year in part so as not to exacerbate tensions with China. He is reportedly seeking a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping next month when Beijing will host a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group. Since coming to office in December 2012, Abe has not met the Chinese leader.

Paying homage at the Yasukuni Shrine is just one aspect of Abe’s agenda of remilitarisation. His government has increased the military budget, established a National Security Council along the lines of its US counterpart, and “reinterpreted” the constitution to allow for “collective self-defence”—in reality, for Japan to join US wars of aggression.

The three ministers who visited the shrine all have ties to Japan Conference, an ultra-nationalist grouping founded by former elements of the imperial military, Shinto fundamentalists and other conservatives. The group calls for “patriotic values” to be taught in schools, while seeking to cover up the crimes of Japanese imperialism.

In line with this agenda, the government is trying to rewrite the history of the Japanese military’s systematic coercion of about 200,000 women from throughout Asia into military-run brothels in the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the women remained silent out of shame before beginning to come forward in the 1980s as light was shone on the extent of this war crime.

Last week, Japanese diplomat Kuni Sato asked Radhika Coomaraswamy, a former special UN rapporteur, to revise her 1996 report detailing the Japanese army’s abuse of so-called comfort women. Coomaraswamy rejected the request. Her report detailed the systematic sexual abuse committed by the military and called on Japan to formally apologize and pay compensation to the victims.

In calling for the revision, the Abe government seized on the decision last August by Asahi Shimbun, the leading liberal paper, to retract a series of articles dating back to 1982 on comfort women. The articles were based on the account of Seiji Yoshida, a former Japanese soldier, who wrote about his assignment to round up hundreds of women on Korea’s Jeju Island as sex slaves for the army. Before he died in 2000, Yoshida admitted to changing aspects of what happened, but did not withdraw his overall story.

Since the Asahi Shimbun’s retraction, Coomaraswamy’s report has come under attack from the extreme right in Japan. However, she stated that while her report cited Yoshida’s story, it was “only one piece of evidence,” with much of the report relying on the testimonies of “a large number of comfort women,” whom she interviewed.

South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesman No Gwang-il criticized the attempt to change the UN report, saying: “Historical truth cannot be concealed even if Japan tries to gloss over the sex slave issue. Only grave criticism from the international community will follow. Seoul will not tolerate Japan’s attempt to blur the truth of history.”

Japan’s right wing has long denied the military’s use of “comfort women” or claimed that the women were not coerced. The Abe government is seeking to revise a limited government apology over the Japanese military’s abuse of women issued in 1993, known as the Kono Statement. It released a report in June calling into question the testimonies of former Korean comfort women, collected before the statement’s release.

Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine last December was the signal for an ideological offensive on a broad front. He appointed a number of known right-wingers to the board of governors of NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster. In February, one appointee Naoki Hyakuta bluntly declared that the Nanjing massacre “never happened.”

Last Friday, the London-based Times reported that NHK banned the use of particular words and references related to the massacre, “comfort women” and the territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. An October 3 document sets out guidelines for writers and translators preparing English-language material. The term “Nanjing Incident” must be used instead of Nanking Massacre. When referring to the comfort women, the words “sex slaves,” “brothels,” and “forced to” have been banned.

The Abe government’s use of the public broadcaster to pursue its militarist agenda was summed up earlier this year by NHK head Katsuto Momii, another Abe appointee. “It would not do for us to say ‘left’ when the government is saying ‘right,’” he said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent religious “masakaki” offerings yesterday to the controversial Yasukuni shrine that honours Japan’s second world war dead, including convicted war criminals. His decision to make masakaki offerings for the spring festival rather than attend in person to pray is thought to indicate caution because of his government’s efforts to mend relations with China: here.