Yomiuri,Japan’s biggest newspaper, apologizes for using term ‘sex slaves’
By Anna Fifield
November 28, 2014
TOKYO — Japan’s biggest newspaper, theYomiuri Shimbun, has apologized to its readers for using the term “sex slaves”and “other inappropriate expressions” to describe the women forced to work inJapanese military brothels during World War II.
The conservative paper instead used themore euphemistic term “comfort women” in its apology.
The move — which one analyst described as“astonishing” — comes amid a broader movement in Japan, led by Prime MinisterShinzo Abe, to reassess Japan’s wartime history and cast it in a better light.It is certain to inflame already-rocky relations with South Korea and China,where most of the women came from.
In an editorial published in the Yomiurinewspaper and on its English language Web site, the Japan News, on Friday, thepaper said it had conducted a review of its coverage and found it had usedterms like “sex slaves” in 85 stories published in English between February1992 and January 2013. This was because it was difficult for non-Japanesepeople to understand the term “comfort women,” it said.
There were also 12 articles that did notuse “sex slave” or its equivalents, the editorial continued, but “definedcomfort women in such terms as ‘forced into prostitution by the military,’ asif coercion by the Japanese government or the army was an objective fact.”
“The Japan News apologizes for having usedthese misleading expressions and will add a note stating that they wereinappropriate to all the articles in question in our database,” it said.
The issue of “comfort women” is extremelysensitive among Japan’s neighbors, especially South Korea, which contends thatits former imperial master has not properly atoned for its wartime actions.
Figures are disputed and difficult toverify, but theconsensus among historians is that as many as 200,000 women fromKorea, China, the Philippines and other Asian nations were forcibly recruitedby Japanese occupation troops during the war.
After a Japanese government investigation concluded that thewomen were coerced to sexually serve the soldiers and “lived in misery atcomfort stations,” Tokyo in 1993 issued a formal apology towomen who were “recruited against their will.” Some of the most conservativefactions in the ruling party want that apology revised or overturned, but Abehas said he will let it stand.
The Yomiuri did not give a reason in itseditorial for conducting the review, but a spokesman said it was triggered by ahuge retraction by the Asahi Shimbun, the left-leaning newspaper, whichin August retracted decades-old stories quoting a Japanese man who said he hadkidnapped 200 Korean women and forced them to work in military brothels.
“The Yomiuri Shimbun thinks the point ofthe issue is whether or not there were ‘comfort women who were carted off bythe military during the war,’ ” the newspaper spokesmansaid. “We have beencriticizing Asahi's reports that spread this inaccurate view in and out ofJapan that ‘the military coerced women’ and setting those inaccurate reports right.”
Part of that involved clarifying Yomiuri’sown terminology, said the spokesman, who asked that his name not be used, as isthe convention in Japan.
The Asahi’s retraction has been used by manynationalist-minded conservatives here to suggest that the entire history of the sex slaves was madeup and that the women were not coerced but were simply prostitutes.
“This is part of a larger story,” saidKoichi Nakano, a political scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo. “Thegovernment is trying, with some success inside Japan, to create an impressionthat the comfort women issue is an Asahi fabrication.”
Abe, the nationalist prime minister whosays he wants to make Japan a “normal” country, and his close aide, ChiefCabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, leapt on the Asahi retraction when it wasmade in August.
Abe said that the reporting by the Asahihad caused the “suffering of many people and discredited Japan’s standing inthe international community,” while Suga said he hoped that the retractionwould result in “a correct recognition of history.”
In its manifesto for next month’s lowerhouse elections, Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party starts that it willrestore Japan’s “honor,” which has been sullied by unjustified accusations,although it does not specifically mention comfort women.
A spokesman for Abe declined to comment.
YukiOda contributed to this report.
Japanesepaper regrets use of term ‘sex slaves’
By Associated Press
November 28, 2014
TOKYO — Japan’s biggest newspaperapologized in print Friday for using the term “sex slaves” in itsEnglish-language edition to describe Asian women forced into Japanesemilitary-run brothels during World War II.
The conservative Yomiuri said in articles inEnglish and Japanese that it was inappropriate to have used the phrase andothers implying the women were coerced to provide sex. The newspaper identified97 articles, including 85 of its own, with “sex slaves” or similar expressionsbetween 1992 and 2013.
It said non-Japanese people have difficultyunderstanding the term “comfort women,” used in Japan to describe the women, soits English-language edition added explanations improperly suggesting that“coercion by the Japanese government or the army was an objective fact.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, otherconservative lawmakers and activists have a long-running campaign against theterm “sex slaves,” maintaining the women weren’t forced.
A government investigation in the early1990s concluded that many of the women “were recruited against their own will” and “lived in miseryat comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere,” according to anapology issued by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.
It said in many cases the women wererecruited by coaxing and coercion, and that government and military officialswere often directly involved.
The investigation found no proof inexisting official documents, and conservatives have used that to argue theircase.
Abe, who took office in December 2012,hoped to revise Kono’s 1993 apology but later promised not to do so followingprotests from South Korea and elsewhere.
The efforts to deny coercion have souredrelations with South Korea, where some of the women came from. Historians saytens of thousands of women from across Asia were used in military brothels.They say most Japanese women in the brothels were prostitutes by profession,while many others were kidnapped.
In August, the liberal-leaning Asahinewspaper apologized for having quoted a person whose account of abductingKorean women to become sex slaves turned out to be a fabrication. Its apologyand retraction of articles from the 1990s containing the comments led toextensive criticism of the Asahi by conservative lawmakers and media.
But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Sugatold parliament that officials didn’t take the person’s account seriously andit did not affect the results of Japan’s investigation or its apology.
The New York Times
JapaneseNewspaper Prints Apology for Using the Term ‘Sex Slaves’
By JONATHAN SOBLE
NOV. 28, 2014
TOKYO — The Yomiuri Shimbun, theconservative newspaper that is the largest-circulation daily in Japan, hasapologized for using the term “sex slaves” to refer to the women many historianssay were coerced into working in a sprawling network of brothels supervisedby the Japanese military during World War II.
In a challenge to the view held by those historians,as well as by the governments of South Korea and China, the newspaper said itwas “inappropriate” to suggest that the women — of many nationalities and knowneuphemistically as comfort women — had been recruited against their will.Writing “as if coercion by the Japanese government or the army was an objectivefact” was incorrect, it said.
The Yomiuri’s apology Friday for the use ofthe term “sex slave” in its English-language edition over more than two decadescame as the newspaper campaigns to correct what it sees as unduly negativeportrayals of Japan’s wartime behavior.
The Yomiuri has for months castigated itsliberal archrival, The Asahi Shimbun, over mistakes in its reporting on sexualabuses by the Japanese military during World War II. The Asahi Shimbun wrote articles in the1980s and 1990s about a man who claimed to have kidnapped Korean women duringthe war and forced them into Japanese military brothels. The man turned out to be lying, andThe Asahi’s retraction of those stories in August prompted The Yomiuri toaccuse it of an “extremely grave” error that had damaged Japan’s internationalreputation.
The debate over wartime history in Japanhas intensified with the ascent of Shinzo Abe, the culturally conservative primeminister who regained power in 2012. Mr. Abe has made restoring pride inJapan’s past a central theme of his political career and has shown awillingness to intervene against news media outlets that he believes stand inthe way of that cause. He has spoken out against The Asahi’s reporting on thebrothels and installed supervisory board members at Japan’s nationalbroadcaster, NHK.
The Yomiuri’s chairman, Tsuneo Watanabe, isa close associate of Mr. Abe’s, and the newspaper firmly backs the primeminister. With the apology, it appeared less to be bending with the conservativewind than stoking its power. Critics sensed a political statement disguised asan admission of guilt.
“It’s no mistake to see the Abeadministration’s views reflected in the Yomiuri article,” Koichi Nakano, apolitical scientist at Sophia University in Tokyo, said in a post on Twitter.
The apology was printed in The Yomiuri’smain Japanese-language edition and by the English-language service, which waspreviously known as The Daily Yomiuri and is now called The Japan News. “TheJapan News apologizes for having used these misleading expressions and will adda note stating that they were inappropriate to all the articles in question inour database,” the newspaper said.
The Yomiuri said it had not used “sexslave” and other similar terms in Japanese-language stories, which simply referto comfort women, but that it had added them to stories in the English-languageedition because the “expression ‘comfort women’ was difficult to understand fornon-Japanese who did not have knowledge of the subject.”
Aversion of this article appears in print on November 29, 2014, on page A7 ofthe New York edition with the headline: Newspaper Is Sorry for ‘Sex Slave’References.