More than 10,000 sue Asahi Shimbun over retracted ‘comfort women’ articles


More than 10,000 people are suing the country’s leading liberal newspaper over its coverage of the “comfort women” issue, which they say stained their reputations as Japanese nationals.

It is the latest salvo in the battle over Japan’s history, which pits an increasingly aggressive revisionist right wing against an ever-more cowed mainstream that accepts the country’s guilt over World War II atrocities.

The lawsuit was filed Monday against the Asahi Shimbun over articles it published in the 1980s and 1990s about the contentious issue of women forced into military brothels before and during the Pacific War.

The paper formally retracted 18 articles last year.

According to the suit filed with the Tokyo District Court, the plaintiffs, including researchers, journalists and lawmakers, are demanding ¥10,000 in compensation to each person, arguing that the newspaper “damaged Japanese people’s personal rights and honor.”

It also demands the paper run an ad to apologize for “spreading erroneous facts to international society.”

The left-leaning daily withdrew the 18 stories last August because they focused on testimony by Seiji Yoshida, a man who claimed to have participated in rounding up females for use as sex slaves by the Japanese military.

Japan euphemistically refers to these girls and women as the “ianfu,” or comfort women.

Yoshida, who has since died, said he had forcibly taken women on the island of Jeju, then under Japanese colonial rule and now part of South Korea, and forced them into sexual labor for Imperial Japanese troops before and during World War II.

On Aug. 5, the newspaper finally admitted that a review had determined Yoshida’s accounts were false.

“There is no evidence that Japanese authorities took comfort women forcibly,” the plaintiffs say in their lawsuit.

Of the Asahi Shimbun articles that used Yoshida as a source, the plaintiffs claim in the lawsuit that “they became the cause to globally spread the distorted history showing comfort women were forcibly taken by the Japanese military in an organized manner.”

The plaintiffs also said that “the Asahi has merely apologized to readers and made no efforts to restore the public’s honor in international society.”

Sophia University professor emeritus Shoichi Watanabe, who is leading the plaintiffs, told a news conference that he “feels angry as the Asahi makes Japanese people ashamed.”

Watanabe denies that the mass sexual slavery attributed to the Imperial Japanese military took place. He is also a leading figure among those who deny the bloody 1937 Nanking Massacre occurred.

The number of plaintiffs is expected to rise to around 13,000, the group said.

An Asahi official said the company will consider how to deal with the matter after examining the complaint thoroughly.

  • timefox

    A comfort woman isn’t a sex slave, a prostitute. We will use correct terminology.

    Don’t ignore Korean’s traders. Don’t ignore comfort woman’s payroll sheet. Don’t ignore a lie of compulsion. Don’t ignore American survey result. Don’t ignore Japanese survey result.

  • labjmh

    Those guys who are suing Asahi should read what the German president said about Auschwitz in his adress just one hour ago. It’s the humble and profound apology that earns respect from the world and not the steady denial of the past.

  • Oliver Mackie

    10,000 people = approx. 0.008% of the population. It is 6,000 less than readers of the Japan Times managed to get to sign a petition in the space of 10 days against Julien Blanc’s planned seminars in Tokyo.

  • johnniewhite

    The second paragraph of this article is the view of the leftists including Asahi Shimbun, and it is not a fair assessment of the feeling of Japanese people.

  • tisho

    My god… researchers, professors, lawyers, journalists.. ? If this is the academic and intellectual level of Japan, i truly feel sorry for all their students. Whitewashing and historical revisionism on such a great scale.. even China’s communist party feels jealous.

  • Wafflesandcoffee

    Guess there are people in denial all over the world. China, Japan, USA… aren’t we one happy family.

  • Harry Hirsch

    If these people feel that their honor was tarnished, they can go ahead and perform Seppuku on themselves.

  • Bruce Chatwin

    Shoichi Watanabe is apparently “little known abroad, even in his own academic area of specialization. He has disconcerted foreigners by telling them that Japan’s “racial purity” was to be cherished” (Wiki).
    Seems that he has to resort to this to get his 15 minutes of infamy.
    Oh, and he describes himself as a “Christian”.

  • Kazumi Takahashi

    This is the largest class action lawsuit ever! The common misconception in the west of “200,000 young girls coerced into sex slavery by Japanese military” arose because the Asahi used the number of conscripted factory workers as the number of “conscripted comfort women” in its 1991 article and continued to report for over 30 years until August of 2014 that those young girls were coerced into sex slavery. The Asahi needs to inform the world of its wrong-doing, and that’s what the lawsuit is for.

  • yulia okost

    Did US admitted and apologized for former sex slaves for US troops? wow one million

  • thomana

    It is a neat summary of events — clearly explained. Good to know that.

  • HiroP

    This is even more bad for Japan, These nationalists needs to learn that denying War Crimes will just damage Japan’s image even more, Germany fully apologized for war crimes and everybody are ok with them, foreign relations are also important.

    10,000 people, amazing.