National / History

LDP panel explores ways to convey Japan's views on sex slave issue

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

A special Liberal Democratic Party committee on Thursday discussed ways to better convey Japan’s views on wartime historical issues to counter a public relations blitz by South Korea.

During the sixth gathering of the Special Mission Committee to Restore the Honor and Trust of Japan, chaired by Hirofumi Nakasone, some members said a carefully crafted strategic plan is needed to gain the understanding of the international community when it comes to the issue of “comfort women,” a euphemism for those who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.

In the discussions on how the forced prostitution issue is portrayed in school textbooks overseas, a Foreign Ministry official told the committee that textbooks by one publisher in Germany and three in the United States contain depictions of comfort women.

Although most of the textbooks do not explore the issue in depth, the government needs to look at them carefully and determine whether they merit an official response, Masahiko Shibayama, a Lower House member who serves as a secretariat of the committee, told reporters after the meeting.

Officials from the Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry attended the meeting to answer members’ questions.

Shibayama also said the government must deal with such issues, which could damage Japan’s national interests, while avoiding the appearance of “historical revisionism.”

During the hour-long meeting, they also studied past lawsuits and rulings in other countries related to the issue.

The committee, launched last October by right-wing LDP members, including party policy chief Tomomi Inada, plans to compile and submit its recommendations to the administration as early as this month.

It also plans to draw up a recommendation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about his expected statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, which will be closely watched by Beijing and Seoul.

Earlier this year, Abe and LDP lawmakers criticized a U.S. history textbook published by McGraw-Hill that included sentences such as: “The Japanese Army forcibly recruited, conscripted and dragooned as many as 200,000 women aged 14 to 20 to serve in military brothels.”

Japanese mainstream historians say it is impossible to determine the exact number of comfort women. But Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a leading historian on the issue, estimates there were at least 50,000.

The Foreign Ministry told the Japanese Consulate in New York last year to ask McGraw-Hill to revise the world history textbook.