Errors on 'comfort women' issue in US textbook must be corrected

Errors on 'comfort women' issue in US textbook must be corrected

World history textbooks can exert great influence on the formation of students' historical perspectives. Any textbook description that unfairly dishonors Japan cannot be overlooked.

A case in point is a US high school textbook for world history that states that the wartime Imperial Japanese Army forcibly took women away to serve as so-called comfort women. That description was taken up at a recent session of the House of Representatives' Budget Committee.

Tomomi Inada, chairwoman of the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council, asked for an opinion of the government on the description during the session.

In response to her question, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the committee: "I'm astonished. This has resulted from years of neglecting to correct what should be corrected, as [Japan] states its position to the international community."

We find the prime minister's answer utterly reasonable.

The government must step up efforts to dispatch factually correct historical information to other countries.

The textbook in question has been published by McGraw-Hill Education, a major US publisher of school textbooks. It has reportedly been designated as a recommended book in Florida and three other US states.

References to comfort women in the textbook read: "The Japanese army forcibly recruited, conscripted, and dragooned as many as two hundred thousand women age fourteen to twenty ..." and "The army presented the women to the troops as a gift from the emperor ..." These descriptions disregard historical facts.

The recruitment of comfort women took place mainly through private-sector business operators. Investigations by the Japanese government have discovered no document that proves women were forcibly taken away by the wartime army to serve as comfort women.

Though the Foreign Ministry has asked the US publisher and the textbook's authors for corrections, it is said to have received no clear answer from them.

The ministry should persist in urging the publisher and the authors to accept its request.

Refutations necessary

In 2007, a plenary session of the US House of Representatives adopted a resolution condemning Japan over the comfort women issue, insisting that the Japanese army forced women to work as "sex slaves." In 2013, a statue depicting a young girl intended to symbolize comfort women was erected at a public facility in the city of Glendale, Calif.

Anti-Japan campaigns by private groups of Americans of Korean descent were a factor behind these developments. It is necessary for the Japanese government to counter these campaigns.

Another issue facing the government is how to deal with lawsuits filed to demand postwar reparations.

Over the years, the government has officially stated that all problems related to claims over such compensation had been settled under such agreements as the Japan-South Korea pact concluded over issues related to the right to pursue legal claims in 1965.

Japanese courts of justice have rejected postwar compensation claims by the plaintiffs.

In handing down such sentences, the courts concluded "claim rights have been invalidated" under the bilateral claim rights agreement, saying that the state of affairs did not require defendants to refute the plaintiffs' argument that the Japanese army had coercively taken people away.

In many cases, however, the courts accepted the plaintiffs' assertions over what they claimed to be facts, due to the lack of refutations by the government against these arguments.

Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa has told the lower house budget committee that her ministry will rebut arguments over facts related to pertinent issues, including whether the Japanese army forcibly recruited people. She said a litigation bureau to be established at the ministry would be used as a base for such activities.

We deem her decision to be appropriate.

The statement issued in 1993 by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono over the comfort women issue contained phrases that could be read to mean the Japanese army took coercive actions to take women away.

We believe it is inevitable to reconsider the Kono statement sometime in the near future.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.