I became involved in the comfort women issue as a focal point of my politics in the summer of 2012, when I visited Washington, D.C. and New York City. I met with a pro-Japanese intellectual who said, “I suspect China will be a threat to the world in the future. That’s why the democratic nations of the United States, Japan, and South Korea should fully join hands to stand off against China. However, why are Japan and South Korea on such bad terms? […] Hasn’t the Japan-South Korea relationship become strained due to the comfort women issue?” At that time, I believed this issue had already been resolved and that only some people with anti-Japanese ideologies were making a fuss about it. Therefore, I couldn’t understand what this intellectual was talking about, and I returned to Japan feeling dissatisfied. When I began researching the comfort women afterwards, I realized that this issue ? which is between Japan and South Korea ? has nevertheless developed into a major problem that involves the U.S. and other countries.
At the end of 2012, I was elected for the first time in the 46th House of Representatives general election. In April 2013, I had the opportunity to ask questions at the House of Representatives Budget Committee. The Takarazuka City Municipal Assembly in Hyogo Prefecture approved the Written Opinion Asking the Government to Respond Sincerely to the Issue of the Japanese Army’s “Comfort Women” in March 2008 with 25 votes in favor and one against. This written opinion says Japan should follow the Kono Statement and sufficiently apologize to South Korea. Only one young, reformist assembly member with no party affiliation was against this approval, while the members in favor included those officially approved and endorsed by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). For that reason, at the Budget Committee I asked the government if a trend of leaning towards the left was not steadily growing from rural areas, including the LDP. I also mentioned the comfort women and asked about the government’s point of view. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga responded that the issue (of the comfort women) would not be made into a diplomatic issue. Perhaps there is no need for Japan to take the initiative to make the comfort women issue ? which stems from fabrications ? into a diplomatic issue. However, South Korea is already using this issue to lobby against Japan in nations such as the U.S., Europe, and even Australia. Rather than maintaining this stance of not creating a diplomatic issue, I feel the Japanese government should implement some sort of countermeasure. Inspired by the discussion at the committee, I was advised by House of Representatives Members Nariaki Nakayama and Hiroshi Yamada that women should get involved in the comfort women issue. That is why I have made it the focal point of my politics.
In December 2013, I went with House of Representatives Members Hiromu Nakamaru and Yuzuru Nishida to Glendale in Los Angeles, California, where a Peace Monument, including a comfort woman statue, has been erected in a park. We were the first Japanese National Diet members to visit and observe this statue. The comfort woman statue in Glendale is installed in a corner of Central Park in the middle of the city. The plaque next to the statue has an inscription that says 200,000 women were removed from their homes by the Japanese Army and coerced into sexual slavery. To tell you the truth, when I ? a Japanese person ? saw this inscription, I felt extremely uncomfortable.
Glendale has a population of roughly 190,000 people. It has five city council members who serve terms of four years and take turns being mayor during that time. When the comfort woman statue was accepted at a Glendale City Council public hearing, four out of five members were apparently in favor.
We also surveyed Buena Park, which voted down the installation of a comfort woman statue in August 2013. At the public hearing where the city council members voted on this issue, the deciding factor in the rejection was a single letter sent by Robert Wada, a second-generation Japanese-American. We were able to meet with Wada during our visit. During the Korean War that broke out in 1950, he went to the front as an American solider and had a very painful experience, including losing childhood friends on the battlefields. By the second or third generations, non-Japanese people of Japanese descent tend to lose their patriotic feelings regarding Japan. Wada, a legitimate American whose allegiance is to the U.S., sent a letter expressing his personal feelings to the Buena Park public hearing. In it, he wrote that the Korean Peninsula had been protected because he and others risked their lives, and that he could not possibly allow South Koreans living there to attempt to install such a statue in the U.S. This moved the hearts of the Buena Park city council members; one voted in favor and four in opposition to the statue.
In the U.S. there are several groups opposing the comfort women statues. There are different degrees of anger regarding the South Korean side. In addition, there are groups of Japanese-Americans with clearly anti-Japanese ideologies that are supporting the South Korean side. Some people believe that Japan should apologize to South Korea and China for the many terrible things it did during the war. Information has reached Japan saying local Japanese and Japanese-American children are being viciously bullied. It is certain that this bullying is taking place, and I have heard that some children have been treated terribly by South Koreans. Children aren’t the only ones being harmed; adults have said they no longer feel comfortable speaking Japanese in public places or that they have dyed their hair blonde so they do not look Japanese. Apparently, some people have even been asked to leave Korean restaurants because they were speaking Japanese. In this way, today Japanese-Americans in the U.S. are being threatened.
I asked a question regarding the 1.5 billion yen allotted for external public relations expenses at the Budget Committee on February 3, 2014. This budget is included as publicity costs to improve understanding of and good feelings towards Japan in Europe, North America, and Asia to contribute to the promotion of Japan’s national interests. The officially announced external public relations budgets of China and South Korea are smaller than the Japanese budget, yet in some ways they are more effective than Japan’s. South Korea takes advantage of the fact that the Japanese government does not have a resolute stance regarding the comfort women issue; it steadily lobbies and carries out anti-Japanese activities in multiple locations in the U.S. The prime minister and chief cabinet secretary both answered that the Prime Minister’s Official Residence will serve a leading role in carrying out strategic international publicity. However, this is not credible if nothing is done. I can’t help but feel that they are treating this issue as someone else’s problem. In these circumstances, I feel very sad thinking that my fellow countrymen in other nations are still experiencing difficult times.
The statement by NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii was also brought up at the Budget Committee. There was a mixed reception to Momii’s remarks, but I think his declaration that the Broadcast Act would be adhered to was right and the way things should be. The reporting of the past has been too biased. Article 4 of the Broadcast Act clearly stipulates that broadcasts should be politically impartial and not misrepresent the facts. Regarding issues with opposing views, the points at issue should be clarified from many angles. However, perhaps because there are no provisions regarding penalties, the stipulations of Article 4 have become a mere facade. When I asked the senior vice-minister for internal affairs and communication if stipulations for punishment should be established, he said the matter would be considered carefully. I asked a further question: “It is true that freedom of the press exists. However ? and the answer seems obvious ? does that mean people are free to report lies?” National Diet members from other factions commented in favor. I promptly stated, “NHK, I ask that you not erase the video of my questions.” On the Internet these questions inspired a huge response; they became a popular topic of conversation and were shared in various places, with over 500,000 hits altogether.
Afterwards, the former Japan Restoration Party (JRP) conducted a signature-collecting campaign called the “National Movement Asking for the Kono Statement on the Comfort Women Issue to Be Reconsidered.” In just one month or so, 142,284 signatures were gathered. These included young women, people raising children, and people who enclosed letters, which made me feel that the number of people who understand this issue is increasing little by little. I am just one National Diet member, but via these activities I was able to personally experience how things can be changed by one small impetus.
The signatures were directly handed over to Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga. Afterwards, the government established the Team to Investigate the Process by Which the Kono Statement Was Written, Etc., and a report was released on June 20, 2014. This investigation was focused on the process by which the statement was written, so it will not lead to reconsidering the Kono Statement. Today, roughly 60% of the citizens want this statement to be re-examined, yet it seems like the government is going to maintain its stance of not reconsidering it. This runs counter to the popular will.
Myself and the other members of the former JRP’s Project Team to Verify Historical Issues were supposed to gather signatures asking for The Asahi Shimbun President Tadakazu Kimura and former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono to be summoned to the National Diet in regards to the comfort women issue.
However, at the party convention on February 1, 2014, Joint Representative Toru Hashimoto stated, “Freedom of the press exists. Is it not improper to summon the president of The Asahi Shimbun ? a member of the mass media ? as a witness to the National Diet?” Since then, the party’s activities had to be narrowed down to summoning Kono to the National Diet, but it definitely did not give up on summoning Kimura. On August 5, The Asahi Shimbun printed an article admitting that it had made extremely erroneous reports that caused the international position of Japan and the Japanese people to fall. Therefore, it is thought that the president and other persons are obligated to explain themselves to the citizens at the National Diet ? the highest governing body. Seiji Yoshida gave false testimony saying he had captured 200 comfort women as sexual slaves on Jeju Island (South Korea), which was first printed in The Asahi Shimbun in September 1982. The Asahi Shimbun has truly harmed the honor of Japan and the Japanese people for 32 years. During that period, did The Asahi Shimbun reporters not doubt Yoshida even once? If not, can we say The Asahi Shimbun is actually a news outlet?
APA Group Representative Toshio Motoya has investigated the comfort women issue just like we have. He declared that he would not place any advertisements in The Asahi Shimbun unless things changed, and said that other Japanese corporations should also demonstrate their objections.
I think The Asahi Shimbun’s excuse regarding mixing up the terms “Women’s Volunteer Corps” and “comfort women” was absurd. It said this mistake was caused by a lack of research, but there were still many former members of the Women’s Volunteer Corps at that time ? if they had collected data they should have easily learned that these women were certainly not comfort women. I cannot help but wonder if The Asahi Shimbun was negligent in its research because it intended to create the fabrication that the Japanese government forced 200,000 women to serve as comfort women, which was also written in a UN report. The Women’s Volunteer Corps was a wartime labor service organization. If you don’t add these women, you would not arrive at the figure of 200,000 women. I also want the people who formed a united front with The Asahi Shimbun regarding the comfort women issue to be made to explain, amend, and apologize in a public place. In particular, I hope that politicians ? such as former Social Democratic Party President Mizuho Fukushima, who served as a defense attorney for a former comfort woman to file a damage suit against the Japanese government, and Tomiko Okazaki, a member of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and former chairman of the National Public Safety Commission who participated in a comfort women demonstration held in front of the Embassy of Japan in Korea in Seoul ? will take full responsibility for their past actions. We also strongly request that Kono be summoned to the National Diet. Even LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba apparently wishes for the persons concerned from The Asahi Shimbun to be summoned to the National Diet to explain. However, I feel the LDP secretary-general should start by summoning Kono.
Around the same time The Asahi Shimbun printed its corrections, the news said the plaintiff’s suit had been thrown out in the District Court regarding the lawsuit for the removal of the comfort woman statue in Glendale. Next to the comfort woman statue in Glendale is an inscription with three lies asserted by South Korea: ・200,000 girls and women were
・forcibly transported by the authorities and
・forced to serve as sexual slaves for the Japanese Army
Officially, these have become entirely groundless claims, so all of the comfort woman statues and inscriptions should be removed in Glendale and throughout the U.S. I think we should also work to prevent the installation of new statues in locations such as Australia. Now that South Korea can no longer use the figure of 200,000 women or claim they were forcibly transported, we should transmit the retraction by The Asahi Shimbun by using the 1.5 billion yen of annual overseas publicity expenses allotted by the Cabinet Office. As I pointed out in my question at the Budget Committee on February 3, even if The Asahi Shimbun has freedom as a news organ, it has not apologized for reporting lies. What does The Asahi Shimbun think about its responsibility for this erroneous coverage? Japan lost 32 years because of The Asahi Shimbun, and so its responsibility is extremely heavy. To regain these 32 years of blankness, I will investigate The Asahi Shimbun’s responsibility in the National Diet.
I asked a question about the Press Code at the National Diet because, at a political report event in my home region, a participant commented, “There are many ways in which I think the Press Code still exists today. I hope you will bring this up at the National Diet.” The Press Code was officially named the “Code for Japanese Press.” During the American occupation of Japan, a 30-item code was imposed to regulate newspapers and other media outlets. These 30 items were:
1. Criticism of SCAP
2. Criticism of Military Tribunal
3. Criticism of SCAP Writing Constitution
4. References to Censorship
5. Criticism of U.S.
6. Criticism of Russia
7. Criticism of Britain
8. Criticism of Koreans
9. Criticism of China
10. Criticism of Other Allies
11. General Criticism of Allies
12. Criticism of Japanese Treatment in Manchuria
13. Criticism of Allies’ Pre-War Policies
14. Third World War Comments
15. Russia vs. Western Powers Comments
16. Defense of War Propaganda
17. Divine Descendant Nation Propaganda
18. Militaristic Propaganda
19. Nationalistic Propaganda
20. Greater East Asia Propaganda
21. Other Propaganda
22. Justification or Defense of War Criminals
24. Black Market Activities
25. Criticism of Occupation Forces
26. Overlaying Starvation
27. Incitement to Violence & Unrest
28. Untrue Statements
29. Key Log
30. Publication of Unreleased Information
This Press Code was created on September 18, 1945 because The Asahi Shimbun printed Ichiro Hatoyama’s statement that the atomic bombs were a war crime in violation of international laws. The Asahi Shimbun was punished by not being allowed to publish for two days, and the Press Code was issued on September 19.
I knew of the Press Code, but when I researched it in more detail I thought it had to be discussed at the National Diet. Therefore, I asked if the Press Code is still in effect today at the House of Representatives Committee on Judicial Affairs on April 1, 2014 and at the House of Representatives Committee on the Cabinet on April 11. Koichi Mizushima (counsellor, minister’s secretariat, Ministry of Foreign Affairs) responded, “The Press Code was invalidated when the Treaty of San Francisco came into effect.” However, that is not true. The United States was in control of the distribution of pulp until past 1955, which effectively controlled the newspaper companies. Because of the Press Code, Japan is still unable to take a firm stand on the Nanking Massacre or comfort women issues. Looking at the responses by and views of the Japanese government, I cannot help but think that it is still bound by the Press Code.
In addition to journalism, via education Japanese people have been imbued with anti-Japanese sentiments for several decades. When the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty was concluded, student movements took place throughout Japan. The people who carried out these activities until the end remained at their universities and became academics or found jobs in the mass media. These impacts can still be seen in various ways today.
It is evident that Japan cannot denounce South Korea or China because the Press Code prohibits criticisms of Koreans and China. If the Press Code did not exist, we would have been able to thoroughly deny the stories about Nanking and the comfort women.
This Press Code seriously harms our national interests. For that reason, other national papers should be summoned to the National Diet in addition to The Asahi Shimbun. An inter-party movement should be created to investigate the Press Code and fully abolish it.