AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Eyes wide shut: The media and the Abe-Bush press conference

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, April 29, 2007

BEFORE HIS VISIT to the United States this weekend, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a CNN interviewer that he thought North Korea’s Kim Jong-il is “a person who is capable of rational thinking”. He added, “I believe that the direction North Korea is headed is wrong.”

In their story, the Associated Press noted, “Abe’s aides could not be immediately reached to confirm his comments.”

Forging boldly ahead with their coverage of the vital issues of the day, the AP referred to the joint Abe-Bush press conference this weekend in the U.S. as a “show of friendship”. They reported that President Bush told Shinzo he “married well”, and invited him down to the ranch. In return, Prime Minister Abe said that he and his wife and George and Laura had a very wondsdfffffffffhtujoi

Oops, sorry about that. I fell asleep and briefly passed out on the keyboard.

After staring at all that irrelevancy, can you blame me? Besides, I nodded off for just a few seconds, but the entire American news media, including CNN and the AP with their millions of dollars in resources and equipment, sat stupefied while one of the biggest stories of the postwar Japan-US relationship sailed over their heads. Yet the AP thinks it’s necessary to confirm that Mr. Abe believes North Korea is headed in the wrong direction?

Why do they have to confirm what every sentient being on the planet knows except some addled South Koreans? And what difference does it make? Why are they even bothering?

Meanwhile, as they’re working the phones, their sources, and shoe leather, they’ve missed the bigger story staring them in the face. In the past two days, Prime Minister Abe and the government of Japan just issued its Declaration of Independence from the legacy of World War II, and in effect told Mike Honda, the U.S. Congress, and the rest of East Asia that if they don’t like it, they can take a hike. But the AP is spending its time trying to confirm that Prime Minister Abe thinks Kim Jong-il is rational.

Perhaps Shinzo should confirm with George whether the President thinks the AP is rational.

To be sure, the Japanese delivered their message subtly and in a non-confrontational way, but the Japanese are nothing if not the masters of telling people to bugger off in subtle and non-confrontational ways.

It started with Mr. Abe’s initial statement at the Camp David press conference:

I explained to the President that as the mission of my administration I will strive to move Japan beyond the post-war regime. As part of this endeavor, I explained to the President that I launched on the eve of this trip a blue-ribbon panel for the purpose of reshaping the legal foundation for national security in a way that will benefit — that will befit the times, now that the security environment surrounding Japan is undergoing major change.

Translation in plain English: “World War II is over. You can forget about seeing any more self-abasement for our actions during that war. We used to bow and suck air whenever another country confronted us with our past. In bilateral negotiations, we would back down from our position when other countries brought up the behavior of Imperial Japan.

“Those days are gone. We’ve behaved responsibly during the past 60 years—more responsibly than most of the rest of you—and we’ve also spent a lot of our hard-earned money on good works internationally. Now, we will no longer be denied our place as an equal at the table of the Community of Nations.

“Oh, and that Constitution you jammed down our throats at the end of the war that legally prevents us from defending ourselves against any attack, much less from the thugs in Pyongyang? We’re going to rewrite it.”

Mr. Abe was still not finished. For the past few months, some elements in the U.S. Congress and the mass media have, at the minimum, tried to make life very difficult for the prime minister and Japan over the issue of comfort women during the war. At the maximum, they might well have been thinking regime change.

Yet Mr. Abe stuck it to them again, this time so discreetly and delicately that no one picked it up. Here’s how he put it:

“I, as prime minister of Japan, express my apologies, and also express my apologies for the fact that they were placed in that sort of circumstance,” Abe said

Everyone focused on the first Oprah-atic part of that sentence, as he knew they would, and glossed over the second part—“the fact that they were placed in that sort of circumstance”.

The apology itself is nothing new, either for Mr. Abe or for several other Japanese prime ministers.

Notice that he did not apologize for “coercing women into sexual slavery” during the war. In fact, all the prime minister did was slightly rephrase the same statement the New York Times misquoted a few months ago, which ignited the initial controversy. The Times cherry-picked one of his answers to a question from the head of the Communist Party in the Diet, in which he said that he thought it regrettable that Korean women felt coerced in the broad sense of the term to become comfort women; i.e., compelled by economic or other conditions.

In other words, Prime Minister Abe stood up in front of everyone at Camp David (including the New York Times) and said essentially the same thing—and this time got praised for it:

Democratic Rep. Mike Honda, a sponsor of a nonbinding congressional resolution demanding that Japan formally apologize for its role in coercing women into sexual slavery, said he was heartened by Abe’s apology.

“The logical extension of Mr. Abe’s remarks is now for the government of Japan to endorse the prime minister’s personal sentiments in a formal, official and unambiguous fashion,” Honda said in a statement.

That’ll happen when shrimp learn to whistle, Mike. You just got the brushoff by a master and you didn’t even realize it.

Indeed, the congressman seems to think the Earth moved under his feet. After a taste of celebrity, it’s understandable that he would be tempted to take a turn on stage as an important player in international diplomacy. To milk 15 minutes out of it, at the very least.

Instead, here’s what will likely happen—by the Fourth of July, Mike Honda will have returned to being the same congressional cipher that he was this time last year. And any nonbinding congressional resolution will be lining the fish crates in Tsukiji Market.

Not that this will particularly bother the congressman. He’s cemented the Korean-American vote in his district, which was the point of the exercise to begin with.

Meanwhile, as the American media were being mesmerized by the George and Shinzo show, the Japanese Supreme Court in Tokyo just shut the book for good on the entire question of individual compensation for wartime suffering. In a perversely fascinating article, notorious Japan-basher Norimitsu Onishi reports:

The court said in both cases (one for rape—i.e., sexual slavery, and one for forced labor) that the Chinese plaintiffs had lost their rights to seek individual legal claims against the Japanese government and companies because of a joint statement in 1972 in which Beijing renounced war reparations from Tokyo, a decision supporting the government’s position that postwar agreements cleared Japan of responsibility for future individual claims.

It is the first time the Supreme Court has ruled on lawsuits by Japan’s World War II captives, mostly Chinese and Korean, effectively quashing dozens of similar cases that have been working their way through the lower courts.

In short, individual Chinese can forget about trying to pry any compensation out of Japan. It’s only logical—Beijing did renounce any claim to reparations, after all. Add to this decision the reparations that Japan have already paid to the other countries in East Asia, and the Japanese treaty with South Korea in 1965 in which Seoul also renounced the right of its individual citizens to demand compensation, and here’s what Japan told the U.S. and East Asia in the space of roughly 24 hours: The show’s over folks. Time to go home.

Onishi, of course, is desperate to spin the story the other way. He wrote:

In its 16-page ruling in a sex slavery case, the court acknowledged that Japanese soldiers had abducted two teenage Chinese girls and forced them to work as sex slaves for months, contradicting Abe’s recent denial of the practice.

It goes without saying that individual instances of soldiers in wartime raping women in occupied territory neither made it a “practice” nor a policy of either the Imperial Japanese government or the military, which was Mr. Abe’s point. Onishi knows that, and he also knows he’s now staring at a brick wall, but backing down would cause him to lose face.

Even more interesting is this odd statement from Onishi:

Historians have estimated that 50,000 to 200,000 women from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere were taken as sex slaves by the Japanese military during the war.

It’s undeniable that many of these women were prostitutes or “camp followers”, as one South Korean historian has called them, and that many in fact came from Japan. Yet notice how Onishi slips in the claim that “women from Japan…were taken as sex slaves”. He does not state they were not native-born Japanese (in other words, Koreans in Japan). Would he have us think that Japanese kidnapped Japanese citizens as sex slaves? Is Onishi actually trying to deny that any of those women were prostitutes?

If so, he’s wasting his time. This court case means that it’s all over but the shouting—literally.

No article of this type is complete without the journalist parading a friendly, near-sighted academic to back up his agenda, but Onishi had to do some real digging to come up with a candidate this time. Usually the journalists tap a real professor at an educational institution. The best Onishi could do was some grad student who “recently completed a dissertation”:

“If it’s freedom from legal threats that Japan was seeking, that goal was achieved today,” said William Underwood, an American researcher who recently completed a dissertation at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, on Chinese forced labor. “But if the goals are reconciliation and mutual understanding with the Chinese, that project is very much unfinished.”

Perhaps Mr. Underwood’s head was buried too deeply in the library stacks to realize that Premier Wen from China just spoke to the Japanese Diet a week or so ago and accepted Japan’s apologies for the war and pledged to move forward. The Japanese will certainly take him at his word.

Granted, the Chinese Foreign Ministry did denounce the Supreme Court’s decision as “illegal”, but it’s not as if anyone looks to the Chinese for a serious opinion on international law. What’s next, Beijing giving advice to the Americans on participatory democracy for the presidential election in 2008?

Or perhaps Mr. Underwood has been so absorbed in finding fault with his hosts that he doesn’t realize those same hosts understand that “mutual understanding with the Chinese” actually means “adopt the complete Chinese position as their own”. Perhaps it hasn’t dawned on Mr. Underwood that his hosts are not particularly impressed by barely-controlled street demonstrations of Chinese college students too young to know anything about events in the 1940s, whose youthful passions are deliberately aroused by a government-controlled press to deflect those passions away from the government itself.

Of course, all court cases of this type generate an expression of outrage from the losing attorney–in this instance, Toshitaka Onodera:

“This ruling is a powerful one, like a sharp knife pointed at Abe.”

How thoughtful of Mr. Onodera to provide us with comic relief. The attention given to this case in the Japanese political arena will be even shorter than Mike Honda’s turn on the international stage.

It is curious, however, that Mr. Onishi failed to mention several other important aspects of the case. First, the Chinese plaintiffs were assisted by American attorneys. (You can be sure the Japanese knew about it.)

Second, the Japanese press began reporting a week ago that these verdicts would be announced on Friday, and that these verdicts would likely go against the plaintiffs. In other words, all the Western media had to do to stay on top of events was hire someone who could read Japanese newspapers. Apparently they were too busy confirming statements broadcast on CNN.

Third, from what I’ve seen, even the left-leaning Japanese vernacular press—who would love to stick it to Mr. Abe—do not see this verdict as a “knife pointing at” the prime minister. (Stop that snickering!) They just see it as the last chapter.

Most curious of all is that no one has commented on the court’s timing. Does the media actually think it was a coincidence that the court announced the verdict at almost the same time that Mr. Abe was blandly telling the press corps at Camp David how sorry he felt for the women and the circumstances they found themselves in? Or are they loathe to admit that the Japanese have stiffed them?

Onishi seems to have noticed the timing, but if he realized its significance, he didn’t try to make an issue of it. Instead, he had this to say about the Prime Minister’s comments in Washington.

Abe avoided assigning responsibility for the practice and did not retract his denial of the military’s direct role, a crucial point to his nationalist supporters, who argue that the women were prostitutes or forced into brothels by private brokers.

By seeming to attribute Mr. Abe’s motivation to an attempt to curry favor with his “nationalist” supporters, Onishi misses the point entirely. The prime minister has been one of the most important forces behind the scenes in the LDP for close to 15 years in shaping policy in Japan today. He’s not currying favor with anyone. It’s who he is and why he’s there.

It has long been a tradition in Japanese politics for the ruling party to form governments headed by specific prime ministers and assign them a particular task or tasks. This practice dates back to the days before Pearl Harbor. At that time, however, Cabinets tended to be short-lived—they disbanded once they completed their narrowly focused mission. Prime Ministers weren’t chosen because of their popularity with the public.

I would hazard a guess that the same principle is, at least in part, still functioning in the case of the Abe Cabinet. The LDP has certain tasks it wishes to accomplish, and it chose Mr. Abe as the man to fulfill that mission—and one reason is that he is the man who spurred the party into acting on those tasks to begin with. These include amending the Constitution, upgrading the Defense Agency to a Cabinet-level ministry (mission already accomplished), and closing the book on the Second World War. They realize this agenda will take several years to complete.

None of this should be a mystery to anyone. The prime minister clearly put it in front of the Japanese public in the book he published just before taking office. And he laid it all out again just now to George Bush on this trip to the States. Remember what he said at the press conference?

I explained to the President that as the mission of my administration I will strive to move Japan beyond the post-war regime.

But eyes wide shut, the American media missed it entirely.

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57 Responses to “Eyes wide shut: The media and the Abe-Bush press conference”

  1. haafu said

    While I can partially understand the feeling of Koreans, what perplexes me about Mike Honda’s current pet project like resolution, to have Japan “apologize concerning the comfort women,” is the whole idea of coercing another country to apologize not on its own terms. Wouldn’t any subsequent apology then be lacking sincerity, which is what the Koreans always complain about?

  2. madne0 said

    Another great article Ampontan. Congrats!
    As far as i’m concerned, it’s about time Japan ditched it’s “peace” constitution. At least the parts that make it a “peace” constitution that is. Japan has more then proven itself as a decent, free and democratic country, and i have no fear as to what a Japan not burdened by a pacifistic constitution might do on the world stage. In fact, and let me go off on a tangent here, in the matter of Japan becoming a permanent member of the UN security council, i’d be much more reassured with Japan there then China, Russia or, heck, even France.

  3. Garrett Milhouse said

    very nice summation and interpretation of the events from the recent japan – u.s. summit.

    what i found interesting was Yonhap’s (the korean national newswire) analysis of the summit, at:

    http://english.yna.co.kr/Engnews/20070428/630000000020070428060002E0.html

    particularly the headline itself which proclaims — ”
    Bush allays Japan’s concerns on North Korea but doesn’t close comfort women issue for S. Korea”

    as if the summit’s sole purpose was to bring satisfaction to korea’s frustration on this issue.

  4. David said

    Excellent post!

    I envy your writing skills, because there have been times when I attempted to address some of the issues covered in this entry, but could not do it adequately… I’m just not that talented when it comes to expressing my thoughts and opinions in a written format.

    Thanks again for this post. I will definitely be referring to it in the near future, over at my own blog. (If that’s OK with you.)

    Regards,

  5. ampontan said

    Thanks, David. I’m glad you liked it. Refer to it all you like!

  6. Marie said

    Really smart and insightful post. I learned a great deal from reading this.

  7. [...] Blogger Ampontan criticizes western media coverage of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to America in an entry entitled, “Eyes wide shut: The media and the Abe-Bush press conference.” [Link] [...]

  8. [...] Ampontan again hits out at the American media for being shallow and missing the point of Prime Minister Abe’s visit to America. A must read. [...]

  9. ampontan said

    Marie: I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. [...] But, this is all prologue to what is really the big news about the solid Japan-US front against Pyongyang. The defiant words Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President George W. Bush fired at the North Koreans pale next to Tokyo’s quiet resolution of the comfort women and other compensation claims, Abe’s apology, and Abe’s resolution to end the post-WW2 period. According to Ampontan: [...]

  11. Ken said

    I’m not sure how much of the media paid attention to what the PM and President actually said, or what was on their agenda, or what they actually talked about…

    Wall Street Journal: ‘Comfort Women’ Issue Dogs Abe’s U.S. Trip – Japanese Leader Acts To Defuse Controversy, Part of Wider Problem

    (by the way, adding “?mod=googlenews_wsj” to the end of many WSJ URLs will get you the full story for a few days)

    Chosun Ilbo: Abe, Bush in Apology Farce

    And so on…

    Who is focusing on the issues that affect us, such as technology toward clean energy? Energy security, economic security? Anyone? The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership?

    I guess they don’t sell enough papers.

    Abe’s steps are in the right direction and I think Japan is showing that it is not afraid of criticism from other places, especially from China. China seems to have adapted to this new political and diplomatic reality.

    At the same time, Japan is going to have to be careful of how it represents its past actions. Protests will flare up. Textbooks will be an issue. Mr Honda is hardly the first to bring a house resolution calling on Japan to apologize – though he has the benefit of a Democratic Congress. There will be anniversaries and the like – such as Nanking this year. Japan needs to make sure that it deals with these issues appropriately. Abe’s inability to handle a question in the Diet did not help him. It led to quite a bit of time being wasted…

    But perhaps more papers got sold.

  12. [...] posted a detailed and scathing attack on American media (notably CNN and AP) for their failure to catch the “story staring them in [...]

  13. Jiromaru said

    Thank you for insightful posts always.

  14. Hi Bill,

    I linked this article to my Japanese language blog, In the strawberry Fields as follows.

    http://biglizards.net/strawberryblog/archives/2007/04/post_416.html

  15. ampontan said

    Thanks for the link, Ichigo, but that URL you post doesn’t allow us to see your site. It says, Access Forbidden.

  16. MarkMarc said

    re: “Oh, and that Constitution you jammed down our throats at the end of the war that legally prevents us from defending ourselves against any attack, much less from the thugs in Pyongyang? We’re going to rewrite it.”

    Ampotan: how does the current constitution, which allows for Japan to engage in self-defense, legally prevent Japan from defending itself against any attack?

    As I see it, the Constitution only prevents Japan from launching a so-called “pre-emptive” attack against a country such as North Korea who may attack it or is judged to be “on the verge of” attacking it.

    Of course, we’ve seen how well such a “pre-emptive attack” has gone in Iraq, but that’s another story…

  17. ampontan said

    Markmarc: The Constitution forbids “the threat or the use of force to settle international disputes”. Even the hawks admit they’ve come to the end of their rope devising interpretations to justify the SDF. In fact, most admit that the current interpretation would prevent them from a pre-emptive attack on North Korea’s missiles even if the missiles were on the launch pad in preparation for firing on Tokyo.

    North Korea has in the recent past talked about turning Japan into a “sea of flame”, and threatened to take steps when Japan forbids its ships from entering port, or failing to provide aid under the recent agreement. If NK chose to shoot a missile over Japan, or close to the islands, to underscore its objections, even Abe says there’s nothing they can do about it (except hope the US helps).

    People often talk about Article 9, but gloss over the Preamble (though it’s not called anything), which says:

    “We have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world.”

    Now, in the 1940s, with New Dealers still in government, what sort of Americans do you suppose wrote a sentence like that?

    When Abe talks about the new realities of the security situation in East Asia, he means that Japan cannot “preserve its security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world” when the peace-loving peoples include nuclear-armed China and North Korea.

  18. MarkMarc said

    Ampotan,

    Thanks for the reply! Very enlightening post, as always.

  19. Hi Bill,

    I am sorry you cannot open my blog. I basicaly summarized your post. Here is an example.
    これは具体的にはどういう意味を持つのか、あんぼんたんことビル君に説明してもらおう。

    平たく言えばだ、「第二次世界大戦は終わったんだよ。俺達が戦後みてえな自虐的な行動をすると思ったら大間違いだぜ。おれたちがよ外国がなんだかんだ言う度に這いつくばっておべんちゃら使ってた時代は終わったんだよ。かつては二カ国間交渉で他国が帝国日本の所業を持ち出す度に後退したけどよ、そういう時代は終わったんだよ。俺たちゃ60年もおとなしくしてきたんだぜ、お前らの何倍も責任ある行動をとってきたんだよ。ほんでもってものすげえ額の血税を国際社会に貢献するため使ってきたんでえ。今後国際社会でまともに扱われねえなんてことは承知しねえ。おう、それからよ、戦後にピョンヤングとかから俺達が攻撃されても正当に防衛できねえように無理やり飲まされた憲法だがよ、改正すっからな、そのつもりで。」とまあこういう意味だ。

    すごいなあ(笑)。本当に安倍さんはそんなこと言ったのか? カカシが思うにアメリカのメディアが安倍氏の真意を理解できなかったというなら、かえってそのほうが日本にもブッシュ政権にも都合がいいと思う。だがすでにアメリカメディアは安倍首相を国粋主義の右翼と決め付けていることでもあり、今後日本が憲法改正だの核武装だの言い出したら、なかなか難しいことになるだろう。

  20. bender said

    I kind of feel that although Japan has pursued pacifism and democracy after WWII, it has been focusing too much into internal affairs. Japan is not recognized as leading the world in human rights or democracy- which is partly understandable because its pacifist diplomatic agenda kept it striclty from interfering with other country’s affairs. The argument about Article 9 of the Japanese constitution seems to also symbolize the internal mindset of Japanese political discussions- the idea’s great, but it barely had any influence on spreading humanism or even pacifism for that matter. I’m not advocating having a strong military or such, but I think you’d have to admit that Japan’s no leader in international politics- it’s not even a leader in pursuing free trade- which I think makes Japan more vulnerable to attacks about its war time past. Sure, Japan has been peaceful and prosperous, but did Japan really care enough about the world to create positive enough a image to withstand the bashing? Japan could do better, like letting in more immigrants (Japan I understand is one of the only industrialized counry that does not let people in) or speaking out against human rights issues abroad…

  21. Bill Underwood said

    Ampotan wrote:

    No article of this type is complete without the journalist parading a friendly, near-sighted academic to back up his agenda, but Onishi had to do some real digging to come up with a candidate this time. Usually the journalists tap a real professor at an educational institution. The best Onishi could do was some grad student who recently completed a dissertation.

    “If it is freedom from legal threats that Japan was seeking, that goal was achieved today,” said William Underwood, an American researcher who recently completed a dissertation at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, on Chinese forced labor. “But if the goals are reconciliation and mutual understanding with the Chinese, that project is very much unfinished.”

    Underwood responds:

    Besides being a doctoral student at Kyushu University (one of Japan’s former imperial universities and thus “Ivy League”) from 2002 until last month, I have also taught full-time at Japanese universities since 1997. In the past month I’ve presented by research findings at major academic conferences in Boston (Asian Studies) and Chicago (Political Science). Publication of my dissertation by a university press appears promising.

    To my knowledge I am the only researcher writing in English about Chinese forced labor reparations (http://www.japanfocus.org), so if the NYT desired a CFL quote there were not many options. I suppose that’s why I’ve been also been quoted on this topic by The Economist and VOA (http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-04-27-voa20.cfm), and on Allied POW forced labor at Aso Mining by the Japan Times, The Australian and The Age.

    Ampotan wrote:

    Or perhaps Mr. Underwood has been so absorbed in finding fault with his hosts … It is curious, however, that Mr. Onishi failed to mention several other important aspects of the case. First, the Chinese plaintiffs were assisted by American attorneys.

    Underwood responds:

    In fact, my research on forced labor reparations work at the Fukuoka level demonstrates how grassroots Japanese activists (“my hosts”) have been leading redress efforts for decades. … Please present evidence of American attorneys assisting Chinese plaintiffs. I’ve closely observed the work on forced labor lawsuits of the main national and local groups of Japanese attorneys since 2002, but have not heard of any American legal involvement.

    Ampotan wrote:

    Second, the Japanese press began reporting a week ago that these verdicts would be announced on Friday, and that these verdicts would likely go against the plaintiffs. … Third, from what I’ve seen, even the left-leaning Japanese vernacular press who would love to stick it to Mr. Abe do not see this verdict as a knife pointing at the prime minister. (Stop that snickering!) They just see it as the last chapter.

    Most curious of all is that no one has commented on the court’s timing. Does the media actually think it was a coincidence that the court announced the verdict at almost the same time that Mr. Abe was blandly telling the press corps at Camp David …

    Underwood responds:

    In fact, the Japanese press reports about the Japan Supreme Court ruling in the Nishimatsu case began appearing in January … Most people would not describe Yomiuri to be left-leaning. But a April 29 headline in the Daily Yomiuri said “Top court decision could prompt govt, firms to offer war-damage settlements.” Temporarily available at http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20070429TDY03004.htm

    Regarding your perception of curious timing, the Supreme Court calendar would have been set last fall at the latest. Details of PM Abe’s schedule in the DC area would have been finalized in April. So if the timing of the court ruling and Abe’s press conference were somehow connected, you have the direction of causation reversed. I would welcome any cordial discussion of these issues.

    William Underwood
    Fukuoka

  22. ampontan said

    The author of the article chose to state you were simply someone who finished a dissertation instead of identifying you as a Japanese Ivy Leaguer. Talk to him about it. Had we known, I’m sure we all would have been impressed.

    BTW, since you’re an Ivy Leaguer, you don’t have to be so humble. Tell us what it is that you teach full time, at which Japanese universities.

    I know *for a fact* that Abe’s trip to DC was planned for May as far back as January of this year, at the least, and likely even earlier. The “coincidence” may have come from Abe’s scheduling and not the court’s.

    The Age, The Japan Times, and The Economist: impressive for your resume. Egregious bashers all, however, with the Age veering close to yellow journalism when the subject is Japan. The JT is an odd duck; very good on non-pop Japanese culture, very left politically, and extremely quirky with its choice of columnists. They print people who call the current government “fascist”, they give regular space to Gregory Clark and Ted Rall, and think that running a George Will piece once a week makes their op-ed page balanced. A general lack of integrity runs throughout their political reporting.

    I’ve never been particularly impressed with the Economist’s coverage of Japan, either, but I haven’t read it in about a decade now. I’m not sure what their problem is. The British seem to have had a harder time getting over the war than the Americans did.

    The American attorney aspect was probably an overstatement. It comes from an article in the Nishinippon Shimbun.

    The Yomiuri report you link to is speculation based on past behavior, such as the Asian Women’s Fund. I’m not sure what their political orientation has to do with their speculation.

    The court decision most certainly did close the book on a lot of things. Companies may make payments, but it will be voluntary, without lawyers padding the bill. There won’t be any grandchildren clamoring for a share 30 years from now. There may be a fund that makes payments, but as we’ve seen from those who refuse to accept Asian Women’s Fund money, compensation isn’t what they’re interested in.

  23. infimum said

    Ampontan,

    Here’s smoething about Underwood’s unique teaching method:
    http://www.imdiversity.com/Villages/Asian/history_heritage/pns_japan_history_0805.asp

  24. Bill Underwood said

    Infimum,

    If you have other effective teaching methods to share, please do so. I was actually called a “Chinese agent” on Channel 2 by someone who read that article and translated portions into Japanese quite inaccurately and unfairly. A bit ironic, in fact, since my research has been quite critical of the PRC government’s involvement (or lack thereof) in this reparations claim and its treatment of the forced labor victims themselves.

    Ampontan wrote:

    “The Yomiuri report you link to is speculation based on past behavior, such as the Asian Women’s Fund. I’m not sure what their political orientation has to do with their speculation. The court decision most certainly did close the book on a lot of things. Companies may make payments, but it will be voluntary, without lawyers padding the bill. There won’t be any grandchildren clamoring for a share 30 years from now.”

    Everyone would likely agree that courtrooms are the least desirable arena for these claims. It *almost* sounds like you would support such a voluntary compensation fund, like those established by the German and Austrian governments and industry in 2000. In any case, the Japanese government says the wartime Chinese labor program was “half-forced.” Virtually every Japanese court ruling, including last week’s Supreme Court ruling, says there were illegal forced deportations from China and illegal forced labor in Japan.

    In an objective (even humble) fashion, I’ve simply analyzed the Chinese forced labor reparations movement with respect to the global trend toward repairing historical injustices. Are you guys all denying that any forced labor took place, or just opposed to the concept of historical redress generally?

    I just tossed in that Ive League line because you seemed to be casting aspersions without much cause … Peace.

  25. weiwei said

    William Underwood…. In my recognition, this man is teaching kids that America never nuked Japan, isn’t he?
    His term of true history is strange.

  26. ampontan said

    Weiwei: Take a look at Infimum’s link to find out what really happens. You might have the wrong impression.

  27. weiwei said

    Bill Underwood Says:
    in fact, since my research has been quite critical of the PRC government’s involvement (or lack thereof) in this reparations claim and its treatment of the forced labor victims themselves.

    Where can I read the research?

  28. bender said

    Yes, it is a fact that the PRC government is not intervening/assisting in the lawsuits, at least not obviously. But the journalists and people from the political science field miss the legal aspect. Some people focus too much on the morality of things- of course the Japanese Empire was a cruel and inhumane regime, but is there really legal standing for the lawsuits?

    As you know. an agreement was reached between the Japanese and PRC government stating that the issue of reparations is resolved. Sure, it does not state whether individual claims has also been waived (as is the case between South Korea and Japan), but so far the PRC government is not going to push this point- it has not disclosed any of its documents regarding the negotiations (neither has the Japanese government, as far as I know). There must be some reason for this, and it’s not clear cut a issue as some people think it to be.

    And you might want to argue if waiver of individual rights by their government is valid or not, but then you might get into the discussion of whether the PRC government is a legitimate representative of the people in the first place. The Japanese government did waive individual compensotary claims regarding post war Soviet detainees and also the assets and properties Japanese private citizens left in the colonies and occupied territories. Now is this non-binding?

    The German situation is also filled with many legal issues and it’s also not clear cut as some people purport it to be. I wouldn’t be so sure as to bash Japan as being nonapologetic.

  29. Shingen said

    Weiwei: A lot of Bill Underwood’s research is readable at Japan Focus: http://japanfocus.org/ (search for William Underwood in the author box) and here: http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=7338

    Bill: I regularly read the NBR Forum and have enjoyed your contributions, the issues you research are crucial to the question of East Asia’s ongoing history.

    Last, but not least, Ampontan: Another great post, thoroughly informative and you really bring the issues together well.

  30. [...] I visited former Japundit contributor Ampontan’s blog today and spent some time digesting and reading through his intriguing post titled: Eyes Wide Shut: the media and the Abe/Bush press conference. [...]

  31. bender said

    For those who believe that Japan has not been paying any reparations, I would suggest them to review the situation regarding Germany- how various citizens of various nations came to be compensated, what is the role of inter-governmental agreements (especially where the governments received payments from W Germany, how they were used to compensate individual claims and how not used), how citizens of ex-Axis nations fared (like Hungary), how it was with ex-Allied nations but was overwhelmed by the Soviet bloc and the ex-Allied nations that were in the US sphere of influence.

    And then, it is a must that you look into the various reparations agreements that Japan entered into with Asian nations, and see if Japan really did get a windfall because of her relationship with the US and the start of the cold war, as some commentators seem to suggest. Also examining the San Francisco Peace Treaty is a must.

    Individually, I’m sure many never got compensated. But collectively, how is the case? LIke I suggested, if agreements between countries are no good for individual claims, then so might be agreements that the Japanese government made to waive the rights of her citizens.

    In the end, it seems like detting up “private” funds seems one rational way to achieve individual justice- this might seem like shameless, unapologetic moves, but Germany did this while refusing to accept any legal responsibility no in line with the treaties/agreements it signed. Or maybe, countries that received monetary compensation should be held liable to pay its own citizens instead of using it for other purposes (if those countries were democratic regimes, I’m pretty sure that would have happned). The Asahi Shimbun in its editorial did in fact mention about this legal aspect, and I personally thought it was well written.

  32. Everlasting said

    In regards to the comfort women issue, I found this piece written by the Congressional Research Service to be very interesting. It is available at:
    http://japanfocus.org/data/CRS%20Comfort%20Women%203%20Apr%2007.pdf

    In particular I find the discussion in regards to what the Japanese right-wing seems to regard as conclusive evidence very interesting. As an attorney, I am always skeptical when it comes to testimonial evidence, yet I find it troubling that such evidence seems to be entirely ignored by the Japanese right wing, with its obsessive focus on documentary evidence highly troubling. There are major evidentiary problems with BOTH testimonial and documentary evidence, and to ignore one but admit the other is to me, highly strange. I also found CSR’s discussion of the treatment of the Asian Women’s Fund by South Korea and Taiwan very interesting, as well as the legal issues surrounding Japan’s view of reparations.

    Ampotan,
    While I respect much of what you have to say, and share your thoughts on how Japan is often misreported (sometimes it seems, almost purposefully) I hope that you refrain from too much ad hominem attacks. While I have not have met Mike Honda, I do know many acquaintances who have worked with him, and whose opinion I very much respect. In my opinion, he is one of the more honest politicians, and enjoys an overwhelming amount of support across the political spectrum and in his home constituency. I think the direction and tone of his current efforts are based on good intentions, but misguided (they will not actually result in any real progress or assistance to comfort women, but will rather serve as a venue for Japan-bashing). I find the amount of ad hominem attacks made about him and his heritage disturbing. Although you may disagree with the effort he is spearheading, ideally it shouldn’t detract from his very good record.

    Bill Underwood,
    I have been a frequent reader of Japan Focus and truly enjoy your analysis of the forced slave labor issue. Please keep up the good work. I find a lot of your research original and quite new. I would like to hear, if it isn’t any bother to you, your thoughts on the merits of seeking reparations through judicial redress. Why do you think efforts have not been as focused on (or at least equally on) providing legislative avenues for redress? My impression is that war-related reparations made by Germany were taken out of the purview of its judiciary and instead spearheaded by its legislative bodies. I’m largely ignorant of the issue, but I always had the impression that subsequent German judicial rulings have only been made in adherence to such legislation. I do not see the Japanese courts as having any similar statutory provisions to follow, and absent such legislative guidance, the choices they have are extremely limited and will almost always doom efforts at gaining reparations. I see in the two recent Supreme Court cases an urge to address the wrongs committed on the plaintiffs. After all the Court found the testimony made to be admissible and of clear evidentiary value. Yet I also sense that the Court felt frustrated that the plaintiffs have turned to the courts and put them in such a position (the Judiciary is the weakest and most limited branch of government in most countries). After all, while denying relief, the Court made it clear that some form of relief should be given (either privately by the corporations involved or willingly by the government). All in all I see this as a struggle between legalistic and moralistic prerogatives.

    As someone with a legal background, my thoughts on the judicial avenue of recourse mostly mirror those of the poster Bender (very interesting thoughts). In regards to the Japanese Supreme Court decision, I would agree procedurally but disagree substantively. I’m not quite sure the courts are the proper venue to address this issue. The analysis in the Congressional Research Service’s section regarding the legal issues of war reparations seems to suggest that Japan does not seem obligated to make official reparations due to the complex nature of post-war treaties and agreements (not to mention the pandora’s box of claims that could possibly erupt from every party involved).

    Anyways, for those who have not Underwood’s articles, I encourage you to do so. You can hardly call him a Japan basher or what not, especially since he has taken people to task for their nationalistic dislike of Japan. Additionally he has focused quite a lot on domestic Japanese moves to address the issue without unduly politicizing the issue as a Japan versus China/SKorea debate. His work is especially noteworthy because I haven’t come across any other substantial work in regards to the issue of forced labor (not comfort women).

    My own opinion is that Japan’s approach as epitomized by the Asian Women’s Fund, seems to be the most proper recourse. A body created by the Japanese government, largely funded by the government, providing apologies made by numerous government officials. I find it a pity that it was so derided and information on it was so spotty and misreported until recently. At the same time I also feel the AWF is indicative of how reparations can be achieved, and how reparations can be ruined. I think the issue of redress is heavily influenced by Japan’s reactions to its detractors. Just when Japan began to seriously consider the issue redress, the oftentimes vitriolic tone of the criticism from its neighbors caused it to retreat overall and become defensive. This extremely negative criticism fueled right-wing moves to scale back on any apologies made, and contributed to an overall defensive attitude. The AWF came about through domestic Japanese efforts when the comfort women issue came to light. My honest opinion is that redress can only come from the Japanese themselves, and the tone of much of the criticism has contributed to a backlash regarding admitting guilt or allowing room for redress. At the end of the day most parties can admit that there were a large number of people wronged, their plight should be recognized, and some form of redress made. Yet the debate seems colored mostly by politics.

  33. Garrett Milhouse said

    Everlasting:

    Much thanks for providing the link to the Congressional Research Service’s analysis on the comfort woman issue.

    I found it to be a fascinating read as it provided very concise and detailed analysis from both sides of the issue. In fact, i learned a great deal on this matter and realized how limited my past knowledge on this issue was – even though I previously thought I understood it quite well.

    Interestingly enough, it basically concludes that Japan has done its fair share to provide both apology to these woman and to provide adequate means of compensation.

    Anyway, just wondering if Mike Honda and his co-sponsors have actually taken the time to read this CRS report that they’ve commisioned…

  34. ampontan said

    Everlasting:
    “There are major evidentiary problems with BOTH testimonial and documentary evidence, and to ignore one but admit the other is to me, highly strange.”

    Why? None of that testimony would be allowed in a criminal case without cross-examination.

    In the case of one Korean woman who testified in the US subcommittee, for example, cross-examination would reveal right away that she told the subcommittee that she snuck out of the house at night, on her own, without telling her mother, to meet with a recruiter. The Japanese say they were recruiting? Sounds to me like she did it for the money.

    Then, it would reveal that barely two weeks later, she is telling audiences in Japan that a man in uniform with a pistol rousted her out of her house by force.

    (It also would be interesting to know if, for the sake of free educational inquiry, Mr. Underwood is giving this information to his students as part of his classroom demonstrations.)

    I suspect this is why President Park of South Korea compensated the people who lost property and the families of those who were killed, but not the comfort women. He knew there was a significant number who did it voluntarily, for the money, but would still demand money for compensation. Human nature.

    The Indonesian government told the Asian Women’s Fund there was no way they could confirm anyone’s story, and settled for senior citizens’ facilities instead.

    “I hope that you refrain from too much ad hominem attacks.”

    I think our definition of ad hominem differs. I suggested that his motivation was the Korean-American vote. That’s not what I call ad hominem. Especially when Korean blogs earlier this year were full of talk about strategy sessions and celebratory meetings at Honda’s DC residence with the Congressman and Korean-American groups.

    He may be a nice guy, but he got duped by one Korean women during the hearings, and he is oddly praising PM Abe for saying the same thing he criticised him for.

    “Just when Japan began to seriously consider the issue redress, the oftentimes vitriolic tone of the criticism from its neighbors caused it to retreat overall and become defensive. This extremely negative criticism fueled right-wing moves to scale back on any apologies made, and contributed to an overall defensive attitude.”

    The right wing never liked it to begin with because they thought it was done without sufficient examination of the evidence. (The initial Japanese story did turn out to be fiction, after all.) The story seems to have been timed with Miyazaki’s visit to SK, and they think Japan reacted too hastily.

    I don’t sense that the rest of the country is defensive. I sense that they think it doesn’t have anything to do with them. I can’t blame them.

    If a judge sentences you to seven years for armed robbery, and you do your time straight up and get released, no one is going to listen if someone comes back 15 years later and say, oh wait, you have to pay this penalty, too, and oh, you didn’t apologize enough.

  35. Everlasting said

    Ampotan,
    Thank you for your measured replies, it’s really an intriguing issue with many sound arguments all around.

    In regards to the issue of testimonial evidence, I think you are still being far too dismissive of its weight or possible admissibility. In a court of law, documentary is also subject to cross-examination, in a similar fashion to testimonial evidence. Only after the proper foundation for its relevance and authenticity are laid may it be admitted into evidence (the persuasiveness of which would be later weighed). The opportunity for cross-examination of documentary evidence is also required. A major issue and factor which differentiates testimonial versus documentary evidence basically lies in temporal reliability. Whereas testimonial evidence is subject to changes over time (try to recall an event from 10 years earlier), documentary evidence is basically an impression set into usually paper form, so that it remains static over time. It is however subject to many of the same evidentiary reliability problems, such as scope of knowledge of the testifier/entry maker, their memory at the time, biases, etc.

    Documentary evidence is the type of material that many rightists site to, when they state their claims on comfort women. They also frequently state that no documentary evidence exists to show coercion in the broad sense. To me this approach is nonsensical, regardless of the issue of whether such evidence actually exists (and some would contend that such documentary evidence does exist). In one narrow sentence one half the type of evidence used by historians and courts to determine the veracity of allegations and reach the truth, is rendered “inadmissible.” Does this not sound strange? Who says that testimonial evidence is not subject to cross-examination or at least detailed examination? Historians who rely on testimonial evidence to make certain conclusions are subject to other academics who may then go on to question the soundness of the underlying evidence. In the two recent cases, the testimonials regarding forced labor and sex slavery have consistently been subject to cross-examination. Note too that although the Supreme Court denied compensation, it and the lower courts consistently held that the allegations of forced labor and slavery were valid and reliable evidence.

    Even where such cross examination is lacking, I believe it is incorrect to say that testimonial evidence is inadmissible simply due to a lack of adversarial examination. As I stated in my earlier post, I have reason to be wary of testimonial evidence. In fact my first instinct is to not trust testimonial evidence (I am always wary of the stuff I hear on TV for instance) unless I can ask more. But who is actually asserting that any testimonial evidence must be given full evidentiary value, and not be subject to examination? The case of the alleged South Korean comfort woman who told numerous significantly different stories about her situation, may seem to be a case in point that illustrates the hazards of testimonial evidence, yet I don’t believe it really is so. I believe that the Congressional subcommittee has or will dismiss her testimony as unreliable. I would not count on her testimony making it in anything but newspaper clippings. Her testimony is also just one account from hundreds of alleged comfort women, so it seems a bit far fetched for me to make a determination based only on one woman’s dubious testimony. One bad apple is not enough to negatively color the testimony of numerous women throughout Asia who have shown far less activism.

    Ultimately I believe the issue isn’t one of whether to outright reject testimonial evidence; the issue should be how well screened such evidence should be, before it is deemed acceptable. This is not exactly on point, but the South Korean fund to compensate comfort women interviewed approximately 200 women who claimed to be comfort women, yet only recognized 120 or so. Additionally reparations committees, for German war claims to interred Japanese-American claims, all relied to a substantial degree on testimonial evidence, made outside judicial proceedings, but with careful screening processes.

    I think the issue or reparations has been mishandled on all sides, the issue being colored in black versus white, right versus wrong, and nothing in between mindset Frankly I cannot see why the truth cannot be something in the middle. There were many women who willingly became comfort women. The comfort women system as it was officially promulgated forbade forced coercion. Yet the reality on the ground points to numerous cases of coercion and enslavement.

    Regarding Mike Honda, I can only base my opinion on what I personally know of him, which is why I even bothered to defend him. But respectively, it did seem to me that certain insinuations, without actual evidence, that he is beholden to Korean interest groups, somewhat at least pejoratively attack his ethical character.

    I pretty much agree with you that the right-wing in Japan were never happy with any assertions of war guilt in regards to comfort women, or any other dark matter. I also agree that Japanese are far too busy, and probably far too apolitical to become actively involved themselves in such matters. However I think too that it is wrong to frame the issue of redress as one of continued punishment of the Japanese people through forced reparations and forced apologies. From my view, this attitude is often borne of a feeling of being under attack. That is why I mention that the way in which China and South Korea have handled the issue rightly deserves condemnation and scorn. If compensation for actual suffers was the central issue, both governments would have enacted domestic legislation, on their own, long before Japan was prodded to do so (or once they realized it would not be so forthcoming). From my own view, they have more often than not harnessed what I feel is justified moral outrage, into a political tool against Japan. One might be able to deduce this from the way in which the AWF was attacked at its inception. I feel it interesting to note that whereas Germany, when it first began to consider redress, was applauded and encouraged by its neighbors, Japan was instead attacked. Frankly I do believe such a negative reaction served to further cement the minds of those politicians who were skeptical or un-agreeable to begin with.

    Furthermore I think it is disingenuous to color the issue of apologies as repeated punishment. The issue of apology is more than simply Japan (or any country) making a statement of contrition. It is about sticking to a principal, which is that when a state makes an apology, it does not dilute that apology and instead tries to reinforce it where is it called into question. That does not mean that Japan must swallow the claims (sometimes exaggerated) of its neighbors. I see the issue as being broader in scope than simply the issue of apology, I think it also encompasses the topics of symbolic redress, and historical revisionism. For example, it seems that in the two recent cases the defense went as far as to outright deny that any invasion of China occurred, that there was never any slave labor, and so forth. The issue thus involves more than a call for apology, the issue is complex because it is interwoven with other debates such as about historical interpretation.

    Ampontan says:

    “If a judge sentences you to seven years for armed robbery, and you do your time straight up and get released, no one is going to listen if someone comes back 15 years later and say, oh wait, you have to pay this penalty, too, and oh, you didn’t apologize enough.”

    I would have to say that in some situations an individual who has been charged with one set of crimes can later be charged with another set of crimes. But honestly that’s not really relevant to the discussion. While your description can be applied aptly to an individual, it becomes more complex when the same thing is applied to a state. As I said earlier, the issue of war apology and redress stretches into the complex realm of collective memory, historiography, and international relations. Japan has paid a great deal in its defeat, and compensated its neighbors in numerous ways after the war. But unlike the individual who has a fixed lifespan, a nation or state has to contend with and deal with such issues for longer periods of time in a far more complex environment. Ultimately the issue of redress is very complex, and I think people should be more open minded as to what purposes it can or should serve, morally and politically. I think we can all agree, its just not as clear cut as it may first seem to be. Thank you again for such thoughtful dialogue.

  36. Sima said

    >Virtually every Japanese court ruling, including last week’s Supreme Court ruling, says there were illegal forced deportations from China and illegal forced labor in Japan.

    >Note too that although the Supreme Court denied compensation, it and the lower courts consistently held that the allegations of forced labor and slavery were valid and reliable evidence.

    この損害賠償訴訟で、国は国際条約を理由に判決の棄却を求めていたため、事実関係を争っていません。その場合、原告の主張はそのまま事実認定されます。事実認定は判決理由に反映されますが、法的拘束力(既判力)があるのは主文だけです。つまり、この民事訴訟によって原告の主張が事実だと証明されたわけではありません。

    民事訴訟法
    第5節 裁 判
    (既判力の範囲)
    第114条 確定判決は、主文に包含するものに限り、既判力を有する。

  37. ampontan said

    Everlasting:
    Thanks for the reply. Your notes sure are a fit for your screen name!

    Just one thing:
    “But unlike the individual who has a fixed lifespan, a nation or state has to contend with and deal with such issues for longer periods of time in a far more complex environment.”

    I think it could be persuasively argued that the country that committed those deeds in WWII (Imperial Japan) no longer exists.

    I make it a practice to read things in the popular press by people who were alive during the war. (I’d like to write a book about the Japanese home front sometime.) At some point, almost all of them say, “I know it’s hard to believe now, but that’s how people thought in those days.”

    “…the issue is complex because it is interwoven with other debates such as about historical interpretation.”

    Which is one reason the US Congress has no business getting involved in the first place. Not only is the issue complex, so is the millenia-old dynamic interaction between the countries of East Asia that impacts on this issue.

    BTW, I hope everyone can read Sima’s note. A very good point.

  38. Everlasting said

    Ampontan,
    Imagine yourself with the flu. It makes you cranky and increases you ability to criticize everything. It certainly gives one a lot of time at home.

    I firmly believe that the Imperial Japan of old is dead. Any attempt at reviving its institutions or society is doomed to failure. The simple fact is that the Japanese I have met are far more concerned with matters of the self than matters of the state, and the majority seems to lack the kind of militaristic zeal present in some of its neighbors. Since the end of WW2, the Japan of today has probably been the most exemplar member of Asia (considering the good stuff its done, a great reflection on Japan, considering the bad stuff, a horrible reflection on the state of Asia). Still, even though the old state is dead, much of the debate centers on its memories. That is what makes discussion of such issues so complex. I think what probably animates much debate on such topics, is how apologies and redress figure into the process of creating and perpetuating different visions of national memory and identity. That plus denying that any wrongdoing ever occurred during the war, which was what the defendants did, is plainly controversial in and of itself.

    Since my Japanese is not pretty much dead with non-practice, I can only get the gist of Sima’s statement. Correct me if I’m wrong, because I very well may be, but he states that the courts determined only the legal merits of the case, and that the factual determinations were not made. If Sima’s words are what I believe them to be, I would have to say that he/she conflates factual relevance and reliability with the courts role in making factual determinations.

    In these two cases, despite being admitted to the court for consideration, the plaintiffs’ testimonial evidence (and other evidence I’m not aware of) is still found lacking? I believe in the Japanese court of law, admission of any evidence, can only be considered of value if the court finds such evidence reliable. The court eventually weighs all the evidence presented, and a ruling is made specifically in regards to what relief may be provided. Whether such evidence is judged to be reliable is within the realm of the fact-finder, and in Japan the judges serve as fact-finders. Here, the nature of the plaintiffs’ demand for relief necessitates that legal relief be denied (due to a finding of a waiver of compensation claims through a bilateral agreement). Thus the court in the end would not make a legal determination of the facts of the case (correct me if I’m wrong) where no legal redress is given.

    The subject matter of the suit was damages (compensation) for forced physical labor in one case, and again damages for sexual slavery in the other case. The courts ruled against an award for damages, and hence only legally ruled upon that. However, based on what I have read, the Supreme Court as well as many of the lower courts nonetheless, in a nonbinding fashion, recognized that the plaintiffs were wronged, and some form of non-legal relief should be provided (with the lower court in the slave labor case finding for the plaintiff).

    In order to reach such a conclusion, the courts had to have found the evidence as presented by the plaintiffs convincing, in addition to finding that the plaintiff’s evidence was reliable for admission. This despite the Supreme Court not making a factual determination of the case (since it was not required to do so having dismissed the case on legal grounds). While ultimately the plaintiff’s evidence is not convincing enough for legal redress, it seems to pass the hurdle for reliability/admissibility, and seems to be credible enough to show wrong-doing occurred, at least to the courts which were not required but nonetheless made such statements.

  39. [...] courteous and that he wanted to say hello to Mr Bush. After reading the analysis on the blog on AMPONTAN the things got another [...]

  40. Sima said

    >Everlasting
    >I believe in the Japanese court of law, admission of any evidence, can only be considered of value if the court finds such evidence reliable.
    それは刑事事件の場合です。
    国が原告の主張に反論しなかった(事実を争わなかった)という理由だけで、原告の主張は事実と認定されたのです。証拠の証拠能力・証明力は関係ありません。

    1.) 民事訴訟法
    (自白の擬制)
    第159条 当事者が口頭弁論において相手方の主張した事実を争うことを明らかにしない場合には、その事実を自白したものとみなす。ただし、弁論の全趣旨により、その事実を争ったものと認めるべきときは、この限りでない。

    2.) 弁論主義 (wikipedia:民事訴訟法より引用)
    第2テーゼ(当事者間に争いのない事実の扱い)
    その事実について,当事者間に争いがない場合はそのまま判決の基礎としなければならない。例えば、貸金返還請求訴訟において、被告が既に弁済していることが証拠上認められる場合であっても、被告自身が未だ弁済していないという自己に不利益な事実を認めている場合は、弁済をしていないことを前提に判決しなければならない。

  41. Everlasting said

    Sima,

    Since my Japanese is not up to par for legal discourse in Japanese, I cannot understand your post with complete accuracy. It would be a courtesy of you to reply in English, and instead of Japanese, if you are able to.

    In my original post I made a passing critique of what I view as absurd, namely the selective use of only documentary evidence by rightists to support their claim that no coercion of comfort women took place. I call this absurd because the underlying reasoning for this is flawed: documentary and physical evidence is subject to many of the same evidentiary problems as testimonial evidence. All evidence must be properly screened and balanced.

    Your last post does not surprise me, because I already have an understanding of such legal principles, which are similar in many ways in the US legal system. Nonetheless you may be mistaken as to what the purposes of my posts are.

    There is a difference between judicial reliability and absolute truthfulness or whatnot. For instance, as in your post, evidence that is not objected to by the opposing party will be taken as being reliable for the purposes of the trial. Since each side has the opportunity to object and examine evidence submitted, it is reasonable to assume that when no objection is made, the court will take the evidence as being reliable enough to base any of its conclusions upon. This point is, this true even if a court may not issue a factual ruling.

    This brings me back to the purpose of my past few posts. I often hear the complaint that the evidence presented by those who claim that things such as the Nanjing Massacre occurred, or that comfort women were coerced, do not meet evidentiary standards, so cannot be given due consideration. While I believe that there is a valid complaint for over exaggeration or over dramatization in some cases (Iris Chang being synonymous in my mind for such), such a critique often strikes me as sophistic and hypocritical. First, such a complaint seems to suggest that evidence is only reliable if it is screened through the judicial processes. Thus one may conclude that to such detractors, evidence that is submitted to a court and put through such a process would be deemed reliable. However I see hypocrisy and duplicity behind the people who make such a critique. It is hypocritical because even when such evidence is put through a judicial process, rightists will still ignore it. It is duplicitous because even where evidence has been judicially screened, the argument is then leveled that this does not establish it as being factually truthful. In other words, evidence (especially testimonial evidence) that is contrary to one’s views is subject to a never ending barrage of unrealistic standards. The reality is, all evidence is subject to such criticism, and no evidence can ever be proven to be 100% factually truthful. The best that can be done is to determine if the evidence is reliable, then to determine what weight it should be given.

  42. Chris said

    What I don’t get is if you accept Abe´s apology or not. He said he was sorry that they had suffered, isn’t it ok then?

  43. mitaker said

    Everlasting,

    I don’t think that Ampontan views testimonial evidence as inherently less credible than documentary evidence. It is just in this case that the testimonial evidence lacks a tremendous amount of credibility in comparison to the documentary evidence.

    Testimonies from the same person, as Ampontan has repeatedly told us, change depending on the situation, and oftentimes contradict each other. Not to mention, there weren’t that many testimonies before (they all of a sudden started to appear in great numbers recently). Whether you’re in the court of law or just having a conversation with a friend, how can you possibly trust such statements as fact?

    On the other hand, the Japanese government had no incentive to lie in official government documents, foreign press have no reason to lie in news articles, personal diaries left by those actually there (whether on the Japanese side or the “victim’s” side) make no sense to lie. Though there could still be factual errors (even with these considerations of motivation), the documentary evidence appears to support each other despite the differences in source. That seems to greatly strengthen the credibility of documentary evidence.

    I think that is what ampontan, or at least what the Japanese right-wing believe.

  44. Everlasting,

    I find your argument compelling. I think Japanese government should just argue that:

    Yes, these things happened; they should not have happened; but all the people who were guilty of these crimes are gone, dead, buried, finished! Imperial Japan is gone. The imperial military is gone. The government we have today is not the same government at all; we modern day Japanese have nothing to do with Tojo’s regime. We didn’t like them either.

    So let’s move on.

    苺畑カカシ(Ichigobatake Kakashi)

  45. ampontan said

    Mitaker: That’s a nice summation. I would add–It is possible that it was the overall policy of the Japanese government to forcibly coerce women to be “sex slaves”, but what some claim as evidence is obviously not evidence. A document regarding the control of recruiters is not evidence. False testimony is most definitely not evidence, even if a congressional subcommittee thinks so. True testimony regarding individual acts in individual situations in wartime does not make it an overall policy (though there might have been a “don’t ask, don’t tell” aspect, too).

    And in any event, people with no direct involvement (and barely an indirect involvement) waste too much of their lives and energy on the subject. Indeed, their interest in the subject is in most cases, clearly not justice for the past, but gaining advantage in the present. And that’s not to mention the personal satisfaction gained from playing Little Jack Horner.

  46. jion999 said

    The reason why the credibility of testimonies from Korean comfort women is so low is because of the pressure of Korean society.

    In Korea, there is an obvious tendency that any kinds of lies are acceptable if you accuse Japanese.
    On the other hand, if you make a complimentary remark about Japan’s policy during the colonial period of Korea, you must be criticized as “chinilpa” (pro-Japanese traitor).

    This article about judicial trial in Korea against American GIs is a good example to show the low credibility of Koreans’ testimonies.

    “South Koreans who give testimony might feel it culturally acceptable to lie, especially if it will increase their chances of winning bigger damages.”

    “There is very little social disapproval of making false official statements in order to achieve an objective for your friend or relative or for a tribe mate.”

    “Some prosecutors and judges fear they’ll be labeled “as a ‘pro-American’ or what they call ‘imperialist.”

    http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=52677&archive=true

    Imagine!
    If one ex-comfort woman confesses that she worked for Japanese force voluntary for money, what would happen to her in Korea?

    Testimonies of some comfort women only could not be good enough as evidence.

  47. Bender said

    What happened in the case of Germany recently is that the ex-forced and slave laborers sued German corporations in US courts- as I recall, this was not about the holocaust about unpaid labor- and the reason why the corporation were sued is because treaties basically prevented the ex-laborers from suing the German state. So I don’t see much difference in how the Japanese and German government deals with the reparations issues.

    I think people need to organize the arguments going on here- the whole situation is in a mess, and much is emotion-driven. Basically, there seems to be two defenses against the allegations that Japan is unapologetic and never paid for its past ordeals- one is in the line of denial (this may be outright denial or partial denial where the claim is that it wasn’t as bad as the Koreans or the Chinese purport it to be) and another line is that Japan did in fact apologize and did pay reparations.

    I don’t think ridiculing someone as “rightist” is not fair or productive, and it does seem true that the comfort women appearing in the public are making contradictory statements- the allegations are very serious, and I don’t see why this point should be overlooked- unless you are determined to brand Japan as being evil or something.

    And I also kind of feel that the arguments inside Japan is also isolated and often self-serving, because the criticism outside of Japan (not in Korea, but like US and the UK) seems to focus on not whether the comfort women were kidnapped out of their homes, but idea that a government setting up brothels for soldiers is inhumane and disgusting. So the argument about “coercion” is not going to work, and Japanese leaders and commentators should be aware of this.

    But then, it seems that people are judging the past by modern human rights standards- brothels back in the 1940s in a country where there wasn’t much human rights were probably abusive and the women probably did not have freedom to quit. So the question I would want to ask is whether the situation was about the exploitation of women in general, or did the Japanese military regime exploit Koreans and other subject peoples? If it was the latter case, I’d say it looks pretty bad.

    About the reparations issue, I think I made my self clear enough, but I want to add one thing: there seems to be some notion that Japan is a free-rider and got away with its past crimes. They only look at the San Francisco Peace Treaty and proclaim “Ah-hah! Japan got a windfall because the allies waived their rights!”- but they completely miss the bilateral treaties that were followed, where Japan did in fact pay compensations. Also they tend to forget about the postwar tribunals that were set up everywhere in Asia which convicted and executed(yes, this means capital punishment)as many as 3,000 Japanese for war crimes. Also Japan lost much of its former territories and most of its major cities and factories were destroyed by allied bombardments- Japan was all ashes at the end of the war, and I don’t think it is accurate to say that the Japanese people did not pay for its past.

    I kind of think the situation is similar to Anti-Americanism- Japan is being bashed for its prosperity. Perhaps fellow east Asians feel that Japan should never have risen from the ashes of WWII- but it did, and this has nothing to do with free-riding.

    Of course, Japanese politicians and leaders could do better- they’re definitely doing a poor job at addressing the issue. I’d say it’s part their fault that Japan is constantly ridiculed as being non-apologetic.

  48. es said

    Bender

    And I also kind of feel that the arguments inside Japan is also isolated and often self-serving, because the criticism outside of Japan (not in Korea, but like US and the UK) seems to focus on not whether the comfort women were kidnapped out of their homes, but idea that a government setting up brothels for soldiers is inhumane and disgusting. So the argument about “coercion” is not going to work, and Japanese leaders and commentators should be aware of this.

    If US or the UK (i guess you assume they are neutral) focuesd on inhumane conditions of women in brothel, I wonder why Mike Honda or any journalist from Uk or Us wouldn’t take the issues that after defeating Japan, GHQ set up brothels for US soldiers.

  49. Topcat said

    Es

    “idea that a government setting up brothels for soldiers is inhumane and disgusting”

    Brothels were run by private owners (civilians), not by Japanese government. Those private prostitution house owners were following military camps and doing their business. Their business was “for soldiers only” and Japanese military sent doctors to those houses to prevent venereal deseases.
    It is this system that you can say was set up by Japanese military.

    Japanese military thought that a system of this kind was necessary in order to –
    (1) protect local women from rapes
    (2) prevent venereal deseases
    (3) protect leak of military information

    US soldiers of GHQ in Japan after WWII caused 25,000 rapes and 9,000 murders before/after comfort houses were set up. GHQ comfort houses were shut down because of spread of venereal deseases.

    You cannot tell easily what is inhumane and what is not.

  50. bender said

    Topcat,

    That US soldier raping allegation I’ve heard before, but you need to at least give something credible to back up such serious allegations- same as you would want to require such for the comfort women issue. Basically, the image of American GIs in Japan is giving out Hershey’s chocolates to children, at least that is what I thought.

    Es,

    I think it’s better argue whether Korean women were the prevalent constituent in the brothels or not, and if so, it does look bad on Japan.

  51. Topcat said

    Bender

    You are right, I should have given something credible.

    I have to make a correction first:
    2,536 murders (not 9,000 sorry!)
    29,768 rapes
    for 7 years from 1945 to 1952
    (both numbers are officially reported and recorded ones as crimes, actual numbers are estimated much larger)

    I should have written –

    Japanese lawmakers and many Japanese journalists/ historians/ non-fiction writers say that about 2,500 murders and about 30,000 rapes were done by US soldiers during the occupation period.

    衆議院議事録
    http://www.shugiin.go.jp/itdb_kaigiroku.nsf/html/kaigiroku/000216620070221002.htm
    ”実は、その調査をしていて、早急に、ペロシ米下院議長、マイク・ホンダ議員に翻訳して差し上げてもらいたいような資料が出てきました。

     資料二を見ていただきたいと思うんですけれども、これは官報号外、昭和二十八年二月二十七日に載った第十五回国会の社会党の藤原道子議員の質問の議事録です。

     二ページ目の上段に線が引いてありますけれども、そこにはこのように書かれてあります。「米軍の暴行事件は、昨年十二月まで独立後」独立後ですよ、「八カ月間におきまして千八百七十八件を数え、なお泣き寝入りになつておりまする件数は厖大な数であろうと想像されております。」

     次に、三段目の線のところを見ていただきたいと思いますけれども、またこうも述べておられます。

     私は、米軍の日本進駐に対し、この尊い母に代つて青年の純潔と健康と堕落から青年を守つた米軍をこそ、信頼し、期待していたのであります。併しこの期待はみごとに裏切られました。基地附近の百鬼夜行の有様は、学童の勉学する所まで荒らされ、幼児さえ米兵の行為の真似をして遊ぶ状態は、ひとり日本の母を悲しませるのみならず、遠く我が子の上を思うアメリカの妻が、母たちが、若しこの実情を知りましたならば、その歎きと、当局に対する不信と憤りは、どのような結果を招くでありましようか。それとも、アメリカの婦人尊重、正義人道とは、アメリカ国内だけであつて、ヨーロッパではそれは紳士道を守るが、アジアの国々においては、その国内法を無視し、何をしてもよい、軍紀も何も通用しないことになつているのでございましようか。

     アメリカの若き兵士の妻、母の立場をもおもんぱかった格調高い日本女性議員の訴えは、読んでいて心を打つものがあると思うんですね。私は、戦後失われたものの一つに、正当な抗議をしなくてはならないときにしてこなかったことがあると思うんです。”

    産経新聞阿比留記者のブログ
    http://abirur.iza.ne.jp/blog/entry/130519
    ”(2)アメリカ
     アメリカ軍が日本に進駐したとき、最初の1か月、それも神奈川県下だけで2900件の強姦事件が発生した。7年の占領期間中には2536件の殺人と3万件の強姦事件を起こした。事態を憂慮したGHQは、ついに東京都に慰安所の設置を要求した。これはうわさや誇張ではなくれっきとした事実である。”

    SAPIO 2007年4月11日号 
    封印されていた占領下の米兵「日本人婦女子凌辱事件」ファイル/水間政憲
    http://skygarden.shogakukan.co.jp/skygarden/owa/solrenew_magcode?
    sha=1&neoc=2300204107&keitai=0
    ジャーナリストの水間政憲氏が国立公文書館から探し出したというファイル。ファイルは377ページに及ぶ「進駐軍ノ不法行為」(内務省警保局外事課)という手書きの原本。没収され米国に持ち去られていたものを、1973年に日本に返還された資料。
    *国立公文書館
    http://www.archives.go.jp/

    As to censorship during the occupation period that prohibited Japanese media from reporting crimes done by US soldiers, the following book would be most helpful.
    閉ざされた言語空間――占領軍の検閲と戦後日本

  52. infimum said

    Basically, the image of American GIs in Japan is giving out Hershey’s chocolates to children, at least that is what I thought.

    Japan Center of Asian Historical Records have relevant reports on such rapes. You can search the archive with the key word “進駐軍ノ不法行為” in their homepage.
    http://www.jacar.go.jp/index.html

    Also, the grand-daughter of the founder of Mitsubishi built an orphanage called Elizabeth Sanders Home for mixed children. They eventually built a school called St. Stephen’s School for them. The school still exists today.
    http://www.stephen-oiso.ed.jp/index.html

  53. Topcat said

    Bender,

    You are right, I should have given something credible.

    I have to make a correction first:
    2,536 murders (not 9,000 sorry!)
    29,768 rapes
    for 7 years from 1945 to 1952
    (both numbers are officially reported and recorded ones as crimes, actual numbers are estimated much larger)

    I should have written –

    Japanese lawmakers and many Japanese journalists/ historians/ non-fiction writers say that about 2,500 murders and about 30,000 rapes were done by US soldiers during the occupation period.

    衆議院議事録
    http://www.shugiin.go.jp/itdb_kaigiroku.nsf/html/kaigiroku/000216620070221002.htm
    ”実は、その調査をしていて、早急に、ペロシ米下院議長、マイク・ホンダ議員に翻訳して差し上げてもらいたいような資料が出てきました。

     資料二を見ていただきたいと思うんですけれども、これは官報号外、昭和二十八年二月二十七日に載った第十五回国会の社会党の藤原道子議員の質問の議事録です。

     二ページ目の上段に線が引いてありますけれども、そこにはこのように書かれてあります。「米軍の暴行事件は、昨年十二月まで独立後」独立後ですよ、「八カ月間におきまして千八百七十八件を数え、なお泣き寝入りになつておりまする件数は厖大な数であろうと想像されております。」

     次に、三段目の線のところを見ていただきたいと思いますけれども、またこうも述べておられます。

     私は、米軍の日本進駐に対し、この尊い母に代つて青年の純潔と健康と堕落から青年を守つた米軍をこそ、信頼し、期待していたのであります。併しこの期待はみごとに裏切られました。基地附近の百鬼夜行の有様は、学童の勉学する所まで荒らされ、幼児さえ米兵の行為の真似をして遊ぶ状態は、ひとり日本の母を悲しませるのみならず、遠く我が子の上を思うアメリカの妻が、母たちが、若しこの実情を知りましたならば、その歎きと、当局に対する不信と憤りは、どのような結果を招くでありましようか。それとも、アメリカの婦人尊重、正義人道とは、アメリカ国内だけであつて、ヨーロッパではそれは紳士道を守るが、アジアの国々においては、その国内法を無視し、何をしてもよい、軍紀も何も通用しないことになつているのでございましようか。

     アメリカの若き兵士の妻、母の立場をもおもんぱかった格調高い日本女性議員の訴えは、読んでいて心を打つものがあると思うんですね。私は、戦後失われたものの一つに、正当な抗議をしなくてはならないときにしてこなかったことがあると思うんです。”

    産経新聞阿比留記者のブログ
    http://abirur.iza.ne.jp/blog/entry/130519
    ”(2)アメリカ
     アメリカ軍が日本に進駐したとき、最初の1か月、それも神奈川県下だけで2900件の強姦事件が発生した。7年の占領期間中には2536件の殺人と3万件の強姦事件を起こした。事態を憂慮したGHQは、ついに東京都に慰安所の設置を要求した。これはうわさや誇張ではなくれっきとした事実である。”

    SAPIO 2007年4月11日号 
    封印されていた占領下の米兵「日本人婦女子凌辱事件」ファイル/水間政憲
    http://skygarden.shogakukan.co.jp/skygarden/owa/solrenew_magcode?
    sha=1&neoc=2300204107&keitai=0
    ジャーナリストの水間政憲氏が国立公文書館から探し出したというファイル。ファイルは377ページに及ぶ「進駐軍ノ不法行為」(内務省警保局外事課)という手書きの原本。没収され米国に持ち去られていたものを、1973年に日本に返還された資料。
    *国立公文書館
    http://www.archives.go.jp/

    As to censorship during the occupation period that prohibited Japanese media from reporting crimes done by US soldiers, the following book would be most helpful.
    閉ざされた言語空間――占領軍の検閲と戦後日本

  54. Topcat said

    Bender

    As to censorship during the occupation period that prohibited Japanese media from reporting crimes done by US soldiers, the following book would be most helpful.
    閉ざされた言語空間――占領軍の検閲と戦後日本

  55. ampontan said

    INFIMUM COMMENT

    This is an Infimum comment that the software thought was spam for some reason. I reproduce it below:
    —————————————–

    Basically, the image of American GIs in Japan is giving out Hershey’s chocolates to children, at least that is what I thought.

    Japan Center of Asian Historical Records have relevant reports on such rapes. You can search the archive with the key word “進駐軍ノ不法行為” in their homepage.
    http://www.jacar.go.jp/index.html

    Also, the grand-daughter of the founder of Mitsubishi built an orphanage called Elizabeth Sanders Home for mixed children. They eventually built a school called St. Stephen’s School for them. The school still exists today.
    http://www.stephen-oiso.ed.jp/index.html

  56. bender said

    Thanks,Infimum and Topcat.

    What’s wrong with the Japanese government? It seems much better to point out GI misbehavior to make Mike Honda look like one big hypocrite than argue whether there was any “coercion”- I’m not saying that Japanese arguments about “coercion” is meritless, but it is quite vulnerable to misinterpretations.

  57. es said

    Bender
    Many Japanese more care what really happened than weather look bad or not. That’s often cause them lack of explanation. In fact, many Japanese carry this kind of philosophy truth reveals itself. I guess that’s total useless for measure that national strategy of damaging image of Japan campaign by Chinese and Korean governments. They worked Mike Honda to bring up the “comfort women” issue major political issue is part of program. Their strategy this time involves human rights sensitive (but fairly damn) westerns to bash Japan. If proper intelligent person hear style mike Honda is making argument, they would wonder if his way of argument sound proper: he only brought up ex-prostitutes’ testimony. No material evidence at all. Mike argues that this woman says there this so Japan must be bad and apologize. As Ampontan said Mike Honda pushed 15 min political stardom. I guess your arguments pointing similar sense, useless arguing weather there was coercive act by Japanese military or not. I want to add it’s useless arguing historical facts by those people’s purpose of history to use as cards to damage others. Their ultimate target is not in historical fact but to carry negative campaign and damage of international reputation of Japan. Anti Japan is their big business and political tools. They only focused on how bad Japan looks instead of facts. They are simplistic like westerners whose human rights sensitivity is reflecting only on sex slavery committed by Japan though there are so many on going humans rights violation around the world “NOW”. This kind of anti Chinese or Korean doesn’t exist in Japan. Probably anti Japan in Japan could be source of business. Journalism in Japan is most likely anti Japan instead of anti authority of many other countries’ journalism. NYT might be anti Bush but not anti USA while Asahi Shimbun is both anti Abe and Japan. Onishi might say Abe got political popularity for being hard on North Korea. People just want to get back kidnapped. I guess their damaging Japan campaign is part successful as you recognize “Japan looks bad” any way. And Japan is not seriously taking measure for that. Japan needs to takes some action for that. But one thing quite sure is that bashing Japan won’t make china and Korea’s image any better at all. Also, a person like Ampontan whose interests is fairness and facts is quite effective counter for manipulating business.

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