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Jan 11 2014

Denial is honor

Glendale California has a statue to “comfort women” which was unveiled on July 30 last year.

Photo by Melissa Wall

Three far-right Japanese politicians want Glendale to remove the statue.

Three members of Japan’s House of Representatives called on Glendale to remove an 1,100-pound statue honoring an estimated 80,000 to 200,000 “comfort women” from Korea, China and other countries who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese army during World War II.

The trio, Mio Sugita of the Hyogo Prefecture, Yuzuru Nishida of Chiba, and Hiromu Nakamaru of Hiroshima, are members of the Japan Restoration Party, a 1-year-old conservative political party that prefers a smaller central government, tax cuts and a hard-line approach to national security.

And no statues memorializing something bad that the Japanese army did in the past.

“The news that the statue was installed made a big noise in Japan,” Nishida said, as it describes the women as sex slaves. “That hurts Japan’s honor.”

Glendale erected the roughly $30,000 statue, which was paid for by Korean groups, in July, and a wave of controversy followed. City officials received thousands of letters from Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans opposing the statue.

Many former comfort women have publicly shared disturbing stories of their servitude and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs says on its website that some women based in war-area brothels were “deprived of their freedom and had to endure misery.”

But saying that hurts Japan’s honor. Everybody is supposed to shut up about it because Japan’s honor.

But statue opponents, including the three Japanese politicians, say the women acted willingly and claim the estimated number of comfort women is greatly inflated.

In addition to calling for the Glendale statue’s removal, the Japanese politicians also said they wanted the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to revise its account of the comfort women system and for their colleagues in Parliament to retract an apology to comfort women made by Japanese officials in the 1990s.

Because honor. Obviously it’s much more honorable to deny and conceal bad things one’s country did 70 years ago than it is to cop to what one’s country did and apologize for it. Obviously. Honor is lying about past misdeeds, while dishonor is acknowledging them and apologizing.

In mirror-world.

In the real world it’s the other way around.

H/t Peter Breitner

 

 

32 comments

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  1. 1
    wannabe

    “The news that the statue was installed made a big noise in Japan,” Nishida said, as it describes the women as sex slaves. “That hurts Japan’s honor.”

    No, Japan’s history of sex slavery hurts Japan’s honor. Japan’s acknowledging her earlier misdeeds improves Japan’s honor.

    Japanese politicians railing against such acknowledgment hurts it again.

  2. 2
    Al Dente

    Thank you, Mio Sugita, Yuzuru Nishida and Hiromu Nakamaru, for bringing this example of Japanese dishonor to our attention again. If these gentlemen had kept their mouths shut, a fair number of people would not have been reminded of how the Japanese government institutionalized sexual slavery. But since Sugita, Nishida and Nakamaru publicly whined about “dishonor,” they reinforce the view held by many that Japan is and was not as honorable as certain Japanese would wish.

  3. 3
    zibble

    I had to reread the beginning a few times, I thought you were talking about Japanese-Americans living in California. How the fuck is it Japan’s business what we do here in Glendale?

    Not to derail the more disturbing fact that a portion of Japan is inadequately ashamed of torture, genocide, rape, and allegiance to the fascists. Although, at least that’s a minority party – our version recently controlled every branch of government.

  4. 4
    Katherine Woo

    zibble, as a Korean-American I was going to vent about Japan’s infuriating audacity, but your post so utterly disgusts me that it “derails” my intentions.

    I am just sick and tired of people like you who feel a compulsion to turn every article on world events into a criticism of America. Do you think you are clever or insightful? Because you are not.

    I am not going to let you use the death of tens of million Asians at the hands of the Japanese empire so you can nurse your (white) liberal guilt or take a political cheapshot.

    If you think the U.S. is even remotely like the Japanese Empire, your moral compass is broken beyond repair. But frankly given some leftwing rhetoric about ‘Empire’ I really do wonder.

    Further you are clearly ignorant of the situation since you write “at least that’s a minority party”. No, its not. The LDP and that slime Shinzo Abe are the dominant political party in Japan and they continue to pay ‘homage’ to their genocidal, colonialist ancestors ay Yasakuni.

    Besides I seem to recall a ton of Democrats supporting all of the things you refer to with your hyperbole. Turning it into a pot shot at Republicans (my parents, children of the victims of Japan, are staunch GOP by the way) is just dishonest nonsense.

    Worse I have to endure this crap every August, when ‘atomic guilt’ is on display. The Western left just loves turn fascist, colonialist Japan into a ‘victim’ of the massive war and colonial enterprises that it started. In effect they are just like these whiny nationalist pricks in Japan, turning japan into a false victim.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    Katherine I would so much rather you had stuck with your original plan. It’s more interesting and more informative, for one thing. Also more on topic.

  6. 6
    Katherine Woo

    As for the article, the fact any Japanese-American, any where, protested this statue is simply mind-boggling.

    It is crap like this that makes the culturally and politically powerful notion of ‘Asian Americans’ such a shaky concept. Aargh…

  7. 7
    Katherine Woo

    Opehlia, I know you are politically closer to the people I am targeting than you are me, but It cheapens the death and suffering of tens of millions to turn it into yet another vehicle of leftist criticism over post-9/11 foreign policy.

    There is PLENTY of opportunity to discuss those issues. The mass rape and enslavement of the Korean people under Japanese rule is NOT one of those times.

  8. 8
    Ophelia Benson

    I don’t disagree, I just don’t think it was worth that much response and anyway I want to see you vent about Japan’s infuriating audacity.

  9. 9
    RJW

    zibbie,

    “a portion of Japan is inadequately ashamed’– it would be very interesting to discover the size of the ‘portion’.

    Knowledge of the huge scale of Japanese atrocities during the 1930s and WW2 seems to have faded into history, strange.

  10. 10
    Marcus Ranum

    a 1-year-old conservative political party

    Aahh, the old theory “there is no such thing as bad publicity.”
    Um, wrong.

  11. 11
    Marcus Ranum

    Knowledge of the huge scale of Japanese atrocities during the 1930s and WW2 seems to have faded into history

    The US was at least partially complicit. The group of Japanese ‘scientists’ who were experimenting with biowarfare) Infecting live humans with Anthrax and Pestis got recruited by the US Government to work at USAMRIID in Ft Detrick, MD. Nice. They didn’t get an office next to Von Braun, though.

  12. 12
    Marcus Ranum

    If you think the U.S. is even remotely like the Japanese Empire

    As a Korean-American, you might want to ask some Vietnamese, Afghans, Iraqis, and North Koreans what they think, before you mount that moral high horse and ride off into the sunset yelling “USA! USA!”

  13. 13
    RJW

    Katherine Woo,

    “The Western left just loves turn fascist, colonialist Japan into a ‘victim’ of the massive war and colonial enterprises that it started.”

    Agreed, the Japanese were the Nazis of the Asia-Pacific.

  14. 14
    RJW

    Marcus Ranum,

    “The US was at least partially complicit.”

    No, the US was not complicit in the atrocities committed by the Japanese during WW2, the moral imbecility of employing Japanese or Nazi war criminals, after the War, is another matter entirely.

  15. 15
    Katherine Woo

    Marcus, the fact you compare duly authorized UN operations like Korea and Afghanistan to the actions of the Japanese Empire just shows a shallow anti-Americanism on your part. It would be a waste of time to actually discuss the problematic examples of Iraq and Vietnam if that is your general attitude.

  16. 16
    left0ver1under

    Marcus Ranum (#12) -

    As a Korean-American, you might want to ask some Vietnamese, Afghans, Iraqis, and North Koreans

    Even just domestically, it’s quite awful, such as the policies and actions toward First Nations Americans, the Tuskegee “experiment”, testing nuclear fallout on Utah (back when the mormons weren’t as popular), using US soldiers to test drugs, etc.

    http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/utah_today/nucleartestingandthedownwinders.html

    I lived and worked in Seoul for four years in the early 2000s. People still talked about the No Geun Ri massacre, fifty years after the fact, along with other events that were never addressed or apologized for.

    I was also there in 2002 when the two US soldiers ran over and killed two teenage girls, and the US military “cleared them of any wrongdoing”. All foreigners kept their heads low and mouths shut for quite a while after that. I started wearing a beard full time just so that nobody would mistake me for a soldier.

  17. 17
    Katherine Woo

    Agreed, the Japanese were the Nazis of the Asia-Pacific.

    Thank you. You boil it down to its essence, and yet, it is surprising how few people would recognize the truth of what you say.

    The Japanese Empire was viciously racist, and its crimes against civilians trace back to that racist ideology. Japan remains a stupidly xenophobic society to this day. Seriously look up polls asking ridiculous questions like ‘would you want a friend who was a foreigner?’ And it is still like a majority saying ‘no’. UFB.

    Having actually lived in some small, lily white towns ‘in the heartland’ during some work projects, people were really quite nice. I would take my chances with an American blue collar, Fox News salt of the earth soul over the average (meaning wealthier and better educated than said American) Japanese person in terms of being welcoming to me if I moved next door.

    And the thing is for all their xenophobia, I cannot even explain it on the Japanese own twisted terms. At least with the Chinese, I see the Japanese having a historical inferiority complex rooted in China’s cultural influence and superiority (and now its rise again). But Korea? They seem to dislike us just for living. They do not even bother with some Elders of Zion bullshit to make us out to be an existential threat, we are just untermensch (even though irony or ironies we have huge genetic overlap and our cultures are not really at great odds on any significant point).

    Is it any wonder they cannot wrap their fucking heads around basic remorse over mass rape or genocide? it is so fucking bad, I read an article where Abe was actually considering rescinding some of the official apologies Japan finally coughed up starting in the 1990′s. That is fucking surreal. Even the most (electable) white nationalist rightwing Christian would probably not be dumb enough to do that, even if they felt no remorse. But in Japan, you can be the country’s most popular politician and float that idea.

  18. 18
    Katherine Woo

    left0ver1under, you do realize while the Koreans you met were allegedly nursing fifty year old grievances and you were having to hide your very face over two accidental traffic deaths, up to TWO MILLION Koreans were dying of man-made famine in the North with HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS incarcerated as political prisoners (as there still are).

    I’m so glad your time in Korea brought you such ‘perspective’. Sadly most South koreans do not care anymore than you apparently did about North Koreans either. Thank you for demonstrating just how ugly leftwing anti-Americanism can skew reality for some.

  19. 19
    corwyn

    @RJW – 14

    I think he meant complicit in the *forgetting* not the original atrocities.

  20. 20
    Decker

    There should be dozens more statues like this one.

    During WWII in a fit of xenophobia, canadian authorities interned the country’s Japanese minority in camps in central B.C.

    Famed enviromentaslis David Suzuki was among them.

    As unjust and unwaranted as that action was, it just doesn’t compare to japanese atrocities like the rape of Nanking.

  21. 21
    Tim Harris

    I will just say, pace Katherine Woo, that the Japan Restoration Party (a thoroughly nasty little group with not as yet much representation, thank Whatever) is not the ruling party, which is the Liberal-Democratic Party, which has been in office almost throughout the post-war period and whose leaders now are the most clearly chauvinist lot since the war. What is very sad in North-east Asia is that there is virtually no willingness on the parts of the Japanese, Chinese and Korean governments to work towards some sort of post-war reconciliation and settlement.

  22. 22
    Janothar

    From the perspective of an American living in Japan (Chiba no less, fuck you to Nishida, especially for that) their party is absolutely terrifying, in ways that, frankly, even the Republicans in the US aren’t. They explicitly have called for repealing the post-war constitution that forbids Japan from having a military (which it gets around, but has to work to do), they want to re-establish State Shinto, and they’re pushing a LOT of the saber rattling going on in East Asia at the moment, like the confrontation awhile back with China over a couple of islands. Not to mention that their most recognizable face, the Mayor of Osaka, has also weighed in on the WWII atrocities to minimize and dismiss them. It’s like having a whole party of Holocaust denying religious fanatic hawks…and I only use “like” because it’s not THE Holocaust they deny, but rather, a different set of massive atrocities.

  23. 23
    zibble

    @4 Katherine Woo

    I am just sick and tired of people like you who feel a compulsion to turn every article on world events into a criticism of America. Do you think you are clever or insightful? Because you are not.

    I felt more like it would demonstrate a lack of self-awareness to criticize the racism of another culture without that acknowledgement.

    If you think the U.S. is even remotely like the Japanese Empire

    Which is not even remotely what I said.

    (my parents, children of the victims of Japan, are staunch GOP by the way)

    An illustration of why self-awareness is important. But congratulations to them for escaping the genocidal racism of the Japanese to join in with the simply dickish bigotry of conservative America.

  24. 24
    RJW

    @ 23

    “An illustration of why self-awareness is important.’

    What point are you making here, Japanese atrocities are historical facts, the degree to which other countries’ armed forces are culpable doesn’t alter the historical record. Are you referring to double standards?

    ..and here?

    ‘…congratulations to them for escaping the genocidal racism of the Japanese to join in with the simply dickish bigotry of conservative America.’

    I’m also interested to discover how you measure a person’s degree of ‘self awareness’.

  25. 25
    zibble

    @24

    What point are you making here, Japanese atrocities are historical facts…

    I don’t know where you’re getting the idea I’m an apologist for the eastern branch of genocidal fascism. I honestly couldn’t tell you why the horrors in the Pacific are so underemphasized in school WWII curricula; guilt over internment and the atomic bomb, or a simple lack of empathy for the Korean, Chinese, and especially Manchurian victims? I doubt most people know that the Japanese experiments on Korean POWs at least rival Mengele.

    Unfortunately, it seems way too common for people to look at these events not as an instructive example of the dangers of bigotry, nationalism, etc, but as an excuse for one’s own racism or nationalism. Like in that disturbing story of the South African pastor who told his flock to eat grass, so many of the comments on the article were just along the lines of “Africans sure are stupid”, which is missing the broader point.

    If the lessons of WWII are only that Germany, Italy, and Japan are evil, then humanity has learned nothing of value, and the same mistakes will continue to be made. I would expect, generally, people who’ve endured unimaginable hatred to know better than to support the party of Anti-Gay, Anti-Woman, Anti-Black, Anti-Mexican, Anti-non-Christian, and it’s depressing how rarely that’s the case.

  26. 26
    RJW

    @25

    “I don’t know where you’re getting the idea I’m an apologist for the eastern branch of genocidal fascism.”

    Actually, I wasn’t suggesting that at all.

    ” I honestly couldn’t tell you why the horrors in the Pacific are so underemphasized in school WWII curricula.”

    I agree with the “lack of empathy” explanation, or perhaps more explicitly, racism, Hollywood and the MSM don’t let the public forget about the European Nazi atrocities, however the barbarous Japanese record in the Asia Pacific seems to have been forgotten, particularly by the Japanese themselves. People in East and SE Asia have much longer memories. Of course the other way the ‘race card’ is played is to inhibit criticism of Japan because it’s ‘racist.’

    “If the lessons of WWII are only that Germany, Italy, and Japan are evil,”

    It’s an imperfect world, and evil is a matter of degree, the fact that some Americans agonise over the justification for the use of atomic weapons against Japan for example, is indicative of a capacity for ethical introspection that wouldn’t have been shared by many Nazis or Japanese. They would have used nuclear weapons and slept soundly. It’s easy to adopt the moral high ground from the vantage point of seven decades.

    I’m not American, so, I don’t understand some of your references, apart from commenting that there’s no rule that victims of persecution somehow, necessarily, become more tolerant themselves—ask the Palestinians.

  27. 27
    Katherine Woo

    zibble, you admit you lack the basic courage of you convictions to simply criticize “another culture” directly without some show of self-flagellation. You either are being paternalistic, or you are letting political correctness come before simply condemning genocidal fascism. Either mindset is shameful when dealing with as extreme an example as Imperial Japan.

    But I am not surprised, the hijab debate revealed that even the most superficial agreement with the right is intolerable for some of you. Your remaining comments are all a variation on the theme.

  28. 28
    zibble

    @27

    zibble, you admit you lack the basic courage of you convictions to simply criticize “another culture” directly without some show of self-flagellation.

    That’s possibly the dumbest way you could have interpreted that sentence.

    I really hope you’re capable of understanding that I’m foremost disgusted by nationalism and my “self-flagellation” is in service of this conviction – but with every post you make I become less optimistic.

  29. 29
    zibble

    @26 RJW

    the fact that some Americans agonise over the justification for the use of atomic weapons against Japan for example, is indicative of a capacity for ethical introspection…

    All the more reason to encourage it. But:

    …that wouldn’t have been shared by many Nazis or Japanese. They would have used nuclear weapons and slept soundly.

    ^I have a problem with this.

    “They” are never a uniform block that remains unchanging. How a victorious Japanese Empire would have evolved from WWII is anyone’s guess. It’s entirely possible Japanese society would have grown more introspective without the distraction of victimhood.

    there’s no rule that victims of persecution somehow, necessarily, become more tolerant themselves—ask the Palestinians.

    Or, for that matter, the Nazi deathcamp prisoners that would murder other prisoners from lower social ranks, like gays.

    The psychology of abuse is sadly counter-intuitive. People rarely learn so much as mimic.

  30. 30
    RJW

    @29,

    “How a victorious Japanese Empire would have evolved from WWII is anyone’s guess. It’s entirely possible Japanese society would have grown more introspective without the distraction of victimhood”

    It’s possible of course, but not very probable. Japan had a history of successful aggression against China, Russia and Korea and its political elite continued with a policy of militarism until the catastrophic war with the US, so I doubt whether victory in WW2 would have resulted in any significant policy changes, just more victims. Remember, democracy and de-militarisation were imposed by the US on Japan.

  31. 31
    freemage

    I think part of the reason that U.S. culture tends to give a pass to Japanese war atrocities is a bit of “once bitten, twice shy”. The fact is, during the war itself, anti-Japanese jingoism was… atrocious. When even Dr. Seuss buys into the racist depiction of the Japanese as some sort of hive-mind such that any sign of Japanese descent is considered proof of being hostile infiltrators and sleeper agents… well, it becomes more difficult to properly present the case that the atrocities were just that. It’s a bit easier to condemn the Nazis, because we are generally more able to relate culturally to European nations, and so it becomes possible to tease out nuances. We know not only Goering, but also Schindler.

    But let’s face it–American cultural knowledge of Asia is almost entirely based on a handful of pop-culture appropriations (Hong Kong Cinema, anime/manga) that give incredibly distorted views of the actual cultures. Hell, how often do we see pundits speaking of “Asia” as if it were a hegemony in the first place? I suspect, for instance, that if one of those ‘how ignorant are Americans’ polls were done, a shocking percentage would include Korea on the list of Japan’s allies. Hell, they’d probably list China, too.*

    Knowing they can’t speak with nuance–that ANY attempt to critique wartime Japan is going to call up echoes of that wartime jingoism, some Hollywood types very likely opt to just shy away from the subject entirely. Of course, then you just have the flat-out racist factor of not caring about atrocities against people who aren’t white enough to matter, which yes, is also probably a contributing factor. Does well for current atrocities, too–just ask anyone from Sudan or the Congo.

    *: Possibly the most absurd example I can think of erasing national identities of Asian countries came when they decided to re-make the Cold War stroke-piece, Red Dawn. For those who missed this blip, the original script for the remake replaced the original Soviet Russian invaders with Chinese invaders, instead. Unlikely, sure, but you could at least comprehend the notion that a sufficiently aggressive Chinese state would be dangerous.

    But then, the moviemakers realized that China is a big overseas market, and that the movie would probably not be released there. So they changed things up at the last minute, making the invaders North Korean (even though most of the actors were Chinese-Americans)–they even went so far as to alter footage digitally to change the flags and emblems where necessary. This, of course, rendered the movie from merely awful to utterly inane–the notion that North Korea in any way, shape or form is a direct existential threat to U.S. territory is so bizarre as to be laughable. Sure, there’s legit concerns about their role in local politics, but it’s mind-boggling to think that they could actually launch an invasion force across the Pacific.

  32. 32
    RJW

    Katherine Woo,

    I hope you’re still subscribed to this thread–you might be interested.

    http://www.theage.com.au/travel/travel-news/all-nippon-airways-sorry-after-complaint-advert-is-racist-20140121-315fv.html

    “Japan is largely racially homogenous, with relatively small immigrant communities.” –What an excellent example of PC ‘code speak’.

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