Jan 5, 2013

Open letter to the editor of NY Times

Dear editor,

I have a comment about your editorial "Another Attempt to Deny Japan’s History" on January 2. As Ms. Hiroko Tabuchi at NYT Tokyo bureau recommended, I send this as a "letter to the editor". As I publish this as an open letter here and Agora in Japanese, you don't have to publish this.

I was one of the first journalists who covered "comfort women" when I was working for NHK TV station in August 1991. When we interviewed Kim Hak-soon, the first woman who came out as a comfort woman, she said that she was sold by parents to Korean brothels and transferred to military brothels in China by private agents.

But in January 1992, Asahi Shimbun ran a story about a military document of comfort women. It was a document to prohibit private agent's kidnapping of women, but Asahi mistook it as an evidence of military kidnapping. And Kim changed the story that she was kidnapped by the Army.

This "sex slave" story misled NYT and other foreign media. Since many people pointed out the error, Asahi reluctantly admitted that they could not prove the military coercion, but they switched the focus to the coercion in the broad sense by private agents. It is only foreign media that still attack Japan's military coercion.

It was clear that there were prostitutes sold by human trafficking in the pre-war era and that Japanese Army managed the brothels, as usual in the world. In Indonesia, an accident was documented, as Ms. O’Herne witnessed, but the soldiers who raped her were punished by Japanese Army because they prohibited coercion.

This is not a problem of "whitewashing" the past but historical facts. In fact there is little disagreement among historians: there was human trafficking by private agents but no military order for abduction. Before you attack PM Abe's "shameful impulses", you had better read new articles about history without prejudice.

Best regards,

Ikeda

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