Are Japanese ConservativesÂ Rewriting WWII History?
In Japan, people continue to wrestle with the events of World War II and it's beginning to spill over into a political debate. Journalist Takashi Uemura published a story more than 25 years ago that detailed a dark chapter in Japan's history. Specifically Uemura wrote that the Imperial Japanese Army forced foreign women to serve as prostitutes for Japanese soldiers. His story appeared in The Asahi Shimbun, a popular, left-leaning newspaper.
Uemura now finds himself at the center of Japan's debate over its WWII legacy. Conservative politicians and news outlets have done their best to fully discredit Uemura's reporting and The Asahi for running the story. Ultranationalists have gone so far as to force Uemura out of a university job and encourage his daughter to commit suicide. In August, pressure from conservatives forced The Asahi to retract more recent stories about women being forced into brothels during the war (so-called "comfort women"). Uemura's piece, however, remains on record with the paper.
Conservative critics say Uemura's article is built on lies and there is not enough substantial evidence that such trafficking took place. Although dozens of women from China, Indonesia, Korea, and the Philippines have all come forward with stories of being forced into prostitution, those on the ultra-right claim these women were simply following Japanese soldiers camp to camp and make money through prostitution.
It remains to be seen how this will play out. In 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives called on Japan to apologize for what it considered "one of the largest cases of human trafficking in the 20th century." Still, this type of debate in Japan is far from unique to that one country. Nations around the world, including the U.S., continue to wrestle with their legacies. As Japan, the U.S. and other countries jockey for global power, how must they confront the darker chapters in their history?
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