Japan asks U.S. publisher to ‘correct’ textbook’s ‘grave’ errors on sex slaves

AFP-JIJI, Staff Report

The Japanese government has asked a major U.S. publisher to “correct” a textbook containing references to “comfort women” issues, the Foreign Ministry said.

Japanese diplomats petitioned McGraw-Hill to change passages in a book used in American schools.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, part of the book reads: “The Japanese army forcibly recruited, conscripted and dragooned as many as 200,000 women ages 14 to 20 to serve in military brothels, called ‘comfort houses.’ “

The daily Asahi Shimbun reported that the ministry thinks this passage contains factual errors, but the ministry has not officially commented on the corrections it requested.

The book also says the Japanese military “massacred large numbers of comfort women to cover up the operation,” according to the Wall Street Journal report.

“The Japanese government, through an overseas diplomatic office, in mid-December asked McGraw-Hill executives to make a correction to the content of a textbook titled ‘Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past,’ ” according to a ministry statement published by the U.S. newspaper.

They did this “upon finding grave errors and descriptions that conflict with our nation’s stance on the issue of ‘comfort women.’ “

Mainstream Japanese historians say no historical records survived the war that can pin down the exact number of women forced to work at the wartime military brothels set up during Japan’s wars in the 1930s and ’40s, and their estimates range from 20,000 to 200,000.

Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor of history at Chuo University in Tokyo and a leading researcher on the issue, estimates there were at least 50,000 comfort women, hypothetically assuming that one female was allocated for every 100 soldiers, and that some women were replaced, raising the total by more than 1.5 times.

Right-wingers in Japan dispute this, and insist the women were common prostitutes. They say neither the state nor the military was involved in any coercion.

The administration under nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has embarked on a global campaign to right what it sees as the wrongs of global perceptions of Japan’s wartime violence.

McGraw-Hill Education confirmed it had been approached by “representatives from the Japanese government . . . asking the company to change the description of ‘comfort women’ in one of our publications,” according to the Journal.

“Scholars are aligned behind the historical fact of comfort women and we unequivocally stand behind the writing, research and presentation of our authors,” the publisher said.

Approaching a foreign publisher is unusual, but nationalists at home have pressed hard to get history reinterpreted.

Late last year, the liberal Asahi Shimbun retracted 18 articles from the 1990s centering on the testimony of a former Japanese soldier who said he was involved in rounding up Korean females to work in brothels. His testimony had long since been discredited, but the paper had for years resisted pressure to retract them.

Its about-face was greeted with glee by right-wingers, including Abe, who demanded the paper apologize for its part in the globally accepted view of Japan’s wartime record.

Tokyo has been angered in recent years over statues honoring comfort women erected by Korean communities in the U.S. and elsewhere.

And in December the government lodged a complaint with Beijing over a reference to “300,000” people who were murdered by Imperial troops in the Rape of Nanking, the Chinese city now called Nanjing, in a weeks-long orgy of rape and violence.

Chinese President Xi Jinping made the comment in a speech at the Nanjing Massacre memorial hall on Dec. 13, calling on Tokyo to acknowledge the gravity of its past crimes.

Diplomats protested that the figure is “different from Japan’s position” and that it is “difficult to determine the concrete number of victims,” sources told Kyodo News.

Since taking office 2012, Abe has pushed for what supporters call a less “masochistic” view of Japanese history.

While the approach is popular among core right-wing supporters in Japan, it does not have broad appeal in a public that feels largely disconnected from events more than seven decades ago.

It is also problematic for Tokyo’s chief ally, the U.S., which would far rather have Japan get past the issue and build better relations with its other key regional ally, South Korea.

  • So calling them comfort women is wrong, calling them other names is right?

  • Bwin51

    I do not understand why the Japanese cannot accept themselves. Denying what they did does just that. They should do as the Germans have done and memorialize their heinous acts. Denying committed atrocities only perpetuates the pain. No one is fooled and no one has the chance to improve. Healing must begin. Japan is a sick place.

    • FunkyB

      I agree that Japan needs to emotionally come to terms with this issue instead of trying to sweep it under the rug. However the word choice in this article is clearly slanted and the tone is overly editorial. I think it paints an inaccurate picture of the mainstream Japanese public view, which has a better grasp on the issue than politicians (not only LDP) vocalize. Also, it is silly to conclude that Japan needs to “get over” the issue when it is Korea that keeps demanding money to settle things “once and for all,” accepting the payment, then five years later coming back with the same claims, rinse and repeat.
      You can’t really blame people for trying to fight PR with PR. The problem is that extremists on both sides have taken control of the narrative and are investing in winning the debate at the expense of the truth.

      • Yosemite_Steve

        The settlement involved setting up a private sector reparations fund with the GoJ rejecting in principle any direct financial responsibility. For some victims the principle was more important than the money and no wonder they did not accept being bought off by private charity to take GoJ off the hook. This is not such a two sided PR fight as you suggest; that’s the standard GoJ line which remains part of the problem, imo.

      • FunkyB

        I’m not personally invested in this issue at all. The so-called correction the GoJ is asking for is absurd, and the GoJ has provided no evidence to back up it’s claims. I just think that articles written like this, as well as the behavior of Korea and China in regards to the issue, is not helping anything either, as there is too much slanted rhetoric with no new evidence, facts, or actionable appeals to international law.

        Korea and China have repeated embellished their claims about what happened, i.e. the number of victims involved (300,000 in Nanking – more than were killed in 10 years of war in Iraq, really?), and the island brothel the Asahi Shinbun reported on that turned out not to have even existed. If Korea didn’t want to be bought off, then imo they shouldn’t have accepted the money (and continued asking for more) when it obviously came with the strings attached that payment was in lieu of a proper acknowledgement and apology. That just gave ammunition to GoJ to
        say they “settled the issue” already. That combined with players in the GoJ that alternately keep trying to revise history (varying from “they were regular prostitutes” to “nothing happened at all”) represents an incredibly arrogant view that the victims don’t even matter enough to be acknowledged.

      • Yosemite_Steve

        “I just think that articles written like this…”

        I just re-read the article and your original comment. “…the word choice in this article is clearly slanted and the tone is overly editorial”. Um, no way. The article is almost 100% reporting of facts. If you think the article was slanted and editorializing in the guise of reporting, I respectfully suggest that you are very much reacting to your own idea about the facts and the issue rather than what was written in the article.

        China says Nanking = 300k. What would you have TJT do, not mention that number because you think it’s highly exaggerated? Is TJT is editorializing when they report about it and mention different estimates including what different academics in Japan and China think which also includes numbers you think are way to large? As far as I can tell, you are blaming TJT for accurately reporting on these disputes.

      • bumfromkorea

        I can’t decide whether to start with the factual error (“when it is Korea that keeps demanding money to settle things “once and
        for all,” accepting the payment, then five years later coming back with
        the same claims, rinse and repeat.”), or the hilarity of writing that on an article about how Japan is literally trying to whitewash history books… in the US no less. Oh yes, Japan already apologized. That’s why they want the US textbook company to adjust the history books to fit their revisionist views on the very topic of that apology.

  • timefox

    An American history fabrication principle person is a problem, too. Persevering enlightenment activities of Japanese Government are expected.

    • Mark Makino

      If you want people to read your comments don’t machine translate them.

      • Yosemite_Steve

        You are probably right about MT given the first sentence. The 2nd sentence is so funny and typical of the Japanese gvt attitude that I first thought it must have been tongue in cheek. Never-ending demands to white wash history becomes “Persevering enlightenment activities of Japanese Government”. Gotta make the world understand us, they have it all wrong, we are so misunderstood. We were bringing prosperity and “wafu” joy to all of East Asia!

      • KenjiAd

        Before the latest edit, he had “enlightenment (啓蒙) principle (主義) person (者)” that would be 啓蒙主義者 or Illuminati in English. He was saying “American Illuminati are the problem, too.”

        In the most recent edit, he changed Illuminati to “history fabrication principle person” which is easier to understand, if you know “principle person” is 主義者 or “-ist” in English.

        the second sentence means – We expect (or hope) that the Japanese government will continue their effort to “enlighten” (tell the truth to the world).

        I understand your frustration, but let’s refrain from criticizing English of non-native speakers. :-) We need native Japanese people (like myself) to voice their opinions here.

      • Ron NJ

        As far as I know no one is criticizing their English, just their use of machine translation.

      • Mark Makino

        Ron NJ is right; I know what learner English looks like and wouldn’t discourage someone trying to apply things they’ve learned. There’s no non-native English here to criticize besides Google’s.

  • Firas Kraïem

    “While the approach is popular among core right-wing supporters in Japan, it does not have broad appeal among a Japanese public that largely feels disconnected from events more than seven decades ago.”

    Doesn’t matter. The Japanese public will remain complicit in this farce as long as they keep electing Abe and his ilk. Conservatives everywhere, not just in Japan, very much like war, because they benefit from it. But only in Japan do they have such a quasi-permanent grip on power. Makes you wonder if the “Japanese public” likes peace so much, after all.

    • Yosemite_Steve

      Well in the US even supposedly “liberals” end up supporting offshore assassination, military adventurism, etc. and at least Japan is not killing people, not yet. But give them a chance and who knows what we would see. They don’t even have a foreign policy of their own. IMO Japanese foreign policy vs real world diplomacy is like monopoly game play money is to real money. No real consequences, nothing is really at stake. The real thing is whatever the Americans say.

  • Ron NJ

    The Japanese government’s stance on this whole situation is really disgusting. Always one step forward, two steps back, and once again here we are with Japan trying to whitewash history – except now they’re trying to do so in other countries as well as their own. Truly shameful.

    At any rate, kudos to McGraw Hill for having some integrity and backbone and standing up to the Japanese government!

    • Dipak Bose

      Not at all. The practice of sex slave is disgusting but it was practiced by armies of USA, UK, France etc. Why do you blame Japan alone? This is the issue here.
      How many Japanese and Korean women became sex slave in the hands of the American army in Japan and Korea?

      • Nick Ellis

        The reason Japan is being singled out, is because Japan, rather than simply not talking about it, is trying to pretend it didn’t happen at all

      • Dipak Bose

        What are the positions of USA, UK, France. Do they recognize their guilt at all?
        Japan has recognized that in certain cases agents supplied girls to the military brothels by kidnapping them. In certain cases Japanese military itself has done that. This is the case also for the American, British, Franch, even the UN Army in Africa.

      • 武 東郷

        Pretend what did not happen?
        Koreans have been saying they have ample evidence. Have you seen any of those ample evidence?

      • Karkadann

        Oh look, the Japanazi Defense Force.
        As stupid and rotten as the holocaust deniers.

      • Kochigachi

        Good question but where is Japanese evidence? If Koreans says they have their evidence then why don’t Japanese gov examine them first?

      • 武 東郷

        Very simple. Koreans don’t allow those so called comfort women to be questioned. Remember Osaka Mayor agreed to meet them sometime ago, saying that he would ask them questions. On the very day of the scheduled meeting, those women suddenly cancelled it.

      • Ron NJ

        It’s an article about Japan on a Japan-based news site discussing Japanese wartime atrocities. What any other nation did or did not do is not at issue here. But to answer your question of “why do you blame Japan alone”: I don’t blame Japan for anything, but I’ll certainly take them to task for attempting to coverup wartime atrocities and gross human rights violations, as any other rational person should do.

  • At Times Mistaken

    Maybe a correction is in order but not the one Japan has in mind. Mcgraw-Hill ought to drop the whole “comfort women” euphemism altogether and just use the more accurate term, “sex slave.” That would be a revision for the history books.

  • Just imagine: Al Qaida approaches politely “Charlie H.” and says, “Please remove all your cartoons about our Prophet. They are not in accordiance with our truth.” And what reaction will AQ get from the whole world? A big laughter, of course! But it’s also a breach of freedom of speech!
    Abe Administration is obvioully smarter than the real AQ in terms of the Charlie H. attack. It could have sent terrorists or even Kamikaze-Ninjas to the american publisher. Nonetheless, it’s a breach of freedom of speech of the same quality.
    It’s eazy to silence the few Japanese dissidents – partly with the help of right-wingers, but stupid to try to mute all the mainstream opinios regarding the “Comfort Women”. Yoshida might have lied, but how could you ignore the cries of all the victims? What worries me most is the fact that nobody in the Japanese elite seems to be in the situation to know what the world thinks about. That’s what it happened before WWII.

  • KenjiAd

    What would be next? Will they (Abe and his revisionist cohorts) demand the American publisher to apologize?

    This is ridiculous. It’s one thing to express disagreement. They could purchase a full-page ad in NYTimes and say whatever they want to say about the issue.

    But asking a commercial publisher to effectively censor the content of their publications? Don;t they know that there is a thing called “freedom of speech”?

    As a Japanese national, I’m so embarrassed. I want to know who came up with this idea.

    • My fear is, the next step would be damanding a Harakiri from the poor publisher.
      Since the NYTimes believes the Comfort Women were forced to, so it would be waste of money to buy a full-page ad there. But seriously, if Abe really knoes what freedom of speech is all about, he should respect the others who don’t share his opinion.

  • BrainOverBullet

    Why would Japan Government afraid historical truth? What bothers them??

  • Dipak Bose

    The practice was not restricted in the Japanese Army. American Army in Japan during 1945 to 1952 and in Korea in 1950`s also had Comfort Women. Previously the British Army and French Army in their colonies had Military Brothels. American Army in Vietnam also had that.
    Thus, it is absurd to blame Japan alone when Britain was the Ally of Japan in the First World War. and during the Russo-Japan war when Japan occupied Korea and Formosa with the help of Britain.

    • kension86

      Maybe the Japanese military brothels in ww2 were less properly “regulated” ?

      I mean, even the mainstream Japanese historians estimated that as many as >20000 of the women were forced into it.

      • 武 東郷

        Prof. Ikuhiko Hata wrote: Foreign historians and legal scholars have an abysmally poor grasp of the facts relating to the comfort women issue. For instance, George Washington University Professor Dinah L. Shelton, wrote the following in the Los Angeles Times:“[M]ost historians estimate the number [of comfort women] at between 100,000 and 200,000. Most were Korean and Chinese, though they also included other Asians and Europeans from Japanese-occupied areas. Many were kidnapped and raped, others were tricked or defrauded; some were sold by their families.” I would revise Shelton’s error-riddled pronouncements as follows: “There were at most 20,000 comfort women. None of them was forcibly recruited. Forty percent of them were from Japan, the most heavily represented nation. Many were sold to brokers by their parents. Some responded willingly to brokers’ offers; others were deceived.” I would add that, on the average, living conditions in the comfort stations were practically identical to those in brothels set up for American troops during the Vietnam War.

      • FunkyB

        That sounds like a summary of the “correction” that the GoJ is requesting. What isn’t being reported is any evidence to back it up. Is there any?

      • 武 東郷

        Japanese are the accused and we are entitled to cross examine the evidence provided by the accuser, in this case, those so called comfort women. Where is it?

  • bumfromkorea

    I am not even remotely surprised. And at a certain point, the people who keeps voting these guys into office are going to have to take responsibility for the actions of their representatives. Considering that this is the third election victory for Abe, I’d say it’s high time we start asking just how “contrary” Abe’s historical views really are in Japan.

  • Dipak Bose

    How many Japanese and Korean women became sex slave in the hands of the American army in Japan and Korea?

    • 武 東郷

      Every nation has been involved in and in charge of facilities enabling soldiers to satisfy their sexual needs without the risk of contracting venereal disease when those soldiers are engaged in combat on foreign soil. The Japanese military was no exception. During World War II, Japanese military authorities established brothels and contracted with local civilian Japanese and Korean brothel operators to recruit prostitutes.
      The results of research on comfort women in South Korea, done by a group of Korean scholars, were published in book form under the title The Military and Sexual Violence. The book provides verification that United Nations Forces (US troops) and the South Korean government were both involved in and in charge of military prostitutes from the moment the Korean War erupted. In South Korea prostitutes servicing US troops were referred to as yanggongju (western princess), yanggalbo (prostitute for westerners), UN madam, and Mrs. UN. The district in which they worked was called Kijichon (Camp Town).
      The Military and Sexual Violence also reveals that military prostitutes were hired for three reasons: (1) to protect Korean women who were not prostitutes, (2) to demonstrate the Korean government’s appreciation to US troops, and (3) to raise the soldiers’ morale.
      Korean soldiers also had access to prostitutes. Very few of the women who became prostitutes to service them did so of their own free will. According to their testimonies, most of them were abducted by Korean intelligence agents and forced into prostitution within 24 hours. The authors of the book maintain that the women were licensed prostitutes from the viewpoint of the Korean government, but that they perceived themselves as sex slaves — victims of the Korean military. Immediately after the aforementioned research work was published in 2002, a ban was placed on the examination of all resources relating to military prostitutes servicing Korean troops housed in the Reference Library of the Korean Ministry of National Defense. When asked why, the relevant authorities muddied the waters further by saying, “This has nothing to do with the Japanese comfort women problem.”

  • Greek Boy

    Unlike Germany, Italy or Spain, Japan has never really confronted what they did. Sadly they were the worst of the lot.

  • J.P. Bunny

    Maybe the U.S. publishers can correct their “errors” when Japan stops calling the conflict The Pacific War and ignoring its alliance with the Nazis.

  • Karkadann

    Grow up and accept you crimes, you stupid, retarded babies.

  • “Right-wingers in Japan dispute…”
    I stopped reading there…

  • Kochigachi

    I know why Japanese can not accept this because it’s very humiliating to them. Japanese rather face death over 70~90 years old atrocities than accepting it as past history and move on.