Japan group pressures U.S. state on textbooks

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Japan group pressures U.S. state on textbooks

Despite an agreement late last year between Seoul and Tokyo to resolve the issue of Japan’s forcing of Korean women into sexual slavery during World War II, Japanese right-wingers are still pursuing historic revisionism in the United States.

A group of Japanese extremists have an online petition demanding California’s Department of Education describe in public high school textbooks the women forced into sexual slavery, euphemistically known as “comfort women,” as “well-paid prostitutes.”

The petitioners, who describe their campaign as “grassroots action on fabricated comfort women issue,” also demanded that the Education Department say the comfort women also “sold their service to the U.S. Army.”

Last year, the California Education Department included a description of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery in its 2014-2016 Draft History-Social Science Framework for history and social sciences education for tenth-grade students.

A passage in Chapter 15 of the tenth-grade textbook, “World History, Culture, and Geography: The Modern World,” will read: “‘Comfort women,’ a euphemism for sexual slaves, were taken by the Japanese Army in occupied territories before and during the war.”

It describes the comfort women as an example of “institutionalized sexual slavery” as well as “one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the twentieth century.”

The changes in the framework would take effect in California’s public high schools starting from 2017.

This online petition, which is written in Japanese and ungrammatical English, goes on to question why the comfort women issue in the textbook is followed by the Holocaust issue and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

It accuses the department for trying to say the atomic bombings “are justified by the comfort women issue and that the comfort women issue is a horrible crime comparable to the Holocaust.”

The petition on change.org, launched earlier this month, had over 3,700 signatures as of Tuesday.

This is not the first attempt by Japanese rightists or Tokyo government to try to revise history textbooks dealing with its wartime aggressions in the United States. On Dec. 28, a breakthrough deal was reached by the foreign ministries of Korea and Japan promising an apology from Tokyo and a multimillion-dollar fund for the comfort women victims. Seoul has called for faithful implementation of the agreement.

But the issue is not going away.

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made remarks in a Diet meeting again denying the forced nature of the mobilization of the women into sexual slavery.

And Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party is preparing a resolution demanding Korea to remove the comfort women memorial statue across from the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul, reported Jiji Press Tuesday.

The resolution is expected to be submitted to the Cabinet soon.

In the December deal, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said that the Korean government “acknowledged the Japanese government’s concerns over the statue for the security of the embassy.” However, the Foreign Ministry has left the issue to the civic organizations that put up the statue.

“We will not respond to every single resolution from Japan’s ruling party,” said Cho June-hyuck, spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a briefing Tuesday. “However, I would like to repeat that the statue of the young girl was installed voluntarily by civilians, thus it is not the government’s place to intervene.”

Two survivors of sexual slavery under the Japanese military, 90-year-old Lee Ok-seon and 89-year-old Kang Il-chul, went to the lower house of the Diet in Tokyo Tuesday to demand a direct apology from Abe and demand compensation that recognized the country’s legal responsibility .

In response to the Abe administration’s constant denial of the forced nature of the mobilization of young women and girls into sexual slavery, Lee said in a press conference, “I was taken away forcefully and my body was cut, whipped and bloodied every day. You are saying that we are lying, but this is the real truth.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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