New NHK chief: ‘comfort women’ only wrong per ‘today’s morality’; programming must push Japan’s territorial stances

Kyodo

The new chairman of NHK said Saturday that its programming for foreign audiences should “state Japan’s positions in no uncertain terms” on territorial disputes with China and South Korea, while defending the nation’s use of wartime “comfort women” and dismissing press freedom concerns about the new state secrets law.

“When the government is saying, ‘Right,’ we can’t say, ‘Left.’ International broadcasting has such a (propagandist) nuance,” Katsuto Momii told a news conference held to mark the start of his three-year stint at the public broadcaster.

Momii, who is rumored to have been the preferred choice of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as NHK’s top official, also made controversial remarks on Japan’s use of the euphemistically titled “comfort women” and the recently enacted secrecy law.

NHK’s programming “shouldn’t be far removed from (the stance of) the Japanese government,” he said, adding that on sovereignty disputes with China over the Senkaku Islands and South Korea over the Takeshima islets, “it is natural to state Japan’s positions in no uncertain terms.”

Asked about the women who were forced to provide sex to Imperial Japanese soldiers before and during World War II, Momii said such an institution existed in “every country” and that it is only considered wrong based on “today’s morality.”

“Things are complicated because South Korea says Japan was the only country that forcibly recruited (comfort women),” Momii, a former president of Nihon Unisys Ltd. and vice president of trading house Mitsui & Co., said, noting he was only stating his personal view.

On possible compensation to the women, as called for by South Korea, he said the matter was fully settled when the two countries signed a treaty in 1965 normalizing bilateral ties.

Meanwhile, Momii dismissed concern about freedom of the press in connection with the state secrecy law, which will impose stricter penalties on leakers of information deemed to be “special secrets” in such areas as counterterrorism and defense.

“Now that (the bill) has been passed, there is no point in questioning it. We will run (a relevant program) if that is necessary,” he said. “It would be a problem if the government’s purpose (of the law) is what the public is worried about. But I doubt that is the purpose.”

On Abe’s controversial recent visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, which infuriated China and South Korea because the site honors Class-A war criminals alongside the nation’s war dead, Momii said NHK is in no position to say whether the visit was “good or bad.”

“He went there with his own conviction as prime minister. . . . In reporting, NHK would just say that the prime minister visited Yasukuni,” Momii said.

  • TO

    Wow! Another sign on the right-ward shift in Japan. It seems that the test of whether Japan has nurtured democratic maturity over the last 60 years depends on to what extent other media outlets and the public can challenge his conservative and almost facist view of the world and the role of the media. I personally hope he will resign.

  • Ron NJ

    “Momii said such an institution existed in “every country” and that it is only considered wrong based on “today’s morality.””
    Where to even begin with quotes like this? Imagine the head of the BBC (or any other industrialized nation’s national broadcasting organization head) coming out and saying something like that! “The enslavement and systematic rape of women, organized and carried out by and with the full knowledge of the state, was common in every country in the 1940s; moreover, as every nation was involved, no nation has the right to criticize Japan over the issue.”
    Absolute bollocks, through and through, and shame on the Japanese people for not causing an uproar over this official as well.

  • Max Erimo

    NHK should provide non-biased news and in fact work as a mechanism to question the governments actions.
    Forcing us to pay for this terrible institution is an affront.
    Why doe the Japanese people stand for it? The education system that raises the population not think or question but be submissive.

  • blondein_tokyo

    Definitely never, ever going to pay NHK fees. Do not want to support propaganda.

  • blondein_tokyo

    There is ample evidence that the government coerced these women, including written documentation, eye witnesses, and victim testimony. The government itself has admitted their involvement in the coercion, though apologies made by three different PMs. The only bashing going on here is the well-deserved bashing of Mr. Momii, who is a liar and a misogynist of the first rank.

    What the US did or does has nothing to do with this, and is only a red herring to distract the conversation so as to give you an opportunity to bash the US.

    It’s quite hypocritical that you dismiss *rightful* criticism of Mr. Momii as “Japan bashing” and then go on to engage in some actual bashing of your own.

  • Christopher Carter

    Momii’s comments are myopic and made with such an unreasonable attitude that it’s hard to know where to begin.

    I’m not an anti-Abe person by any means, but Momii has demonstrated that he is not qualified for his post if I get a TV I will refuse to pay NHK fees until he resigns. Let me take three examples of where I think he fails to understand what is talking about and then attempts to use illogical assertion or outright fallacy as the basis of his statement.

    1. [On territorial disputes] NHK’s programming “shouldn’t be far removed from (the stance of) the Japanese government. … it is natural to state Japan’s positions in no uncertain terms.”
    -> The terms aren’t uncertain, it’s the evidence and legal circumstances that is. How about clearly citing the specific pieces of evidence the government bases its positions on if you want to actually persuade your target audience. Shouting your position doesn’t make it any more or less valid.

    2. “Things are complicated because South Korea says Japan was the only country that forcibly recruited (comfort women),”
    -> Many Koreans are upset that people like Momii regularly spout off inappropriate gaffes in lieu of taking the issue seriously enough to even properly understand it. Sex slavery was not common in every country during the 1940s. Trying to conflate sexual slavery with the issue of prostitution is a logical fallacy.

    3. “Now that (the bill) has been passed, there is no point in questioning
    it.”
    -> Yes there is. It’s called analytical journalism.
    “It
    would be a problem if the government’s purpose (of the law) is what the
    public is worried about. But I doubt that is the purpose.”
    -> People don’t protest in droves over good intentions. The problem is the potential for arbitrary execution of the law, and the secret and accountability-free environment in which that will occur.