JAPAN MUST BLOCK UNESCO FROM LISTING “COMFORT WOMEN” ON MEMORY OF WORLD REGISTER
I recently received an alarming photograph from Professor Shiro Takahashi of Meisei University. The photo shows a committee meeting in Seoul of NGO representatives from various nations out to have UNESCO list the so-called “comfort women” on its Memory of the World Register. While indicating that Japan is decisively lagging behind in the on-going public relations battle over its war-time history, the photo reminds us of the excruciating defeat Japan suffered at UNESCO last year by failing to block the “Nanjing Incident” from being registered.
Taking up a position in the center of the gathering was Ray Edmondson, an Australian national, with Japanese women’s rights activist Ms. Mina Watanabe sitting on his left. Edmondson plays a core leadership role in assessing applications for formal registration. Having been involved with the Memory of the World program since 1996, he has taken the initiative in formulating its operating principles and system.
When NGOs around the world turn in applications for registration, they are forwarded to the Register Sub-Committee, which makes recommendations for listings to the International Advisory Committee. Because the advisory committee is made up of people with little understanding of the applications, the sub-committee’s conclusions are virtually final. Edmondson has for years served as the sub-committee chairman.
When China applied for a listing of documents pertaining to the “Nanjing Incident” last year, there sadly was no way for Japan to learn their content—despite the fact that Japan was accused of grossly fabricated charges. Before realizing what was going on, China’s application was accepted and Japan ended up being freshly portrayed as a nation that had engaged in heinous massacres of the Chinese. It was a blunder—attributable primarily to the Foreign Ministry—from which Japan may forever be unable to completely recover. Learning from this mistake, Tokyo has since been urging UNESCO to revise the application system, demanding that all the documents submitted for registration be checked for accuracy and validity of assessment with representatives of the country directly concerned participating in the discussions.
Last May, 14 NGOs from eight nations, including China and South Korea, and the Imperial War Museum of London submitted some 2,700 sets of documents relating to the “comfort women.” The sub-committee has a final session scheduled for next January to assess the application. It would be impossible to refute each of the documents in the little time left. The Foreign Ministry claims it has intensified its appeal for a revision of the registration system and that it has “produced results.” But has it really? One must remember that Edmondson now serves as the “coordinator” for the new sub-committee charged with reforming the registration system.
Injustice at UNESCO
On September 9 Edmondson was in Tokyo delivering the keynote address at a symposium at the Korean YMCA entitled Why UNESCO World Register Was Created. In a Q&A session that followed, he declared that the system reform proposed by the Japanese government will not apply to the application currently being considered for the “comfort women.”
Does this not mean that the strategy of the Foreign Ministry, which aims to prevent the registration of the “comfort women” through the proposed reform of the existing system, has already fallen apart? If the present situation prevails, it will be almost certain that the application will be accepted and included in the World Register, just like that pertaining to the “Nanjing Incident.”
Professor Takahashi explains his strong concern as follows:
“One can read these signs from the photograph I got hold of. It shows how NGO representatives from Japanese, Chinese, South Korean, and other civic organizations are preparing for a listing of the ‘comfort women’ documents on the Memory of the World Register. Consider what the presence of the ‘coordinator’ of the Sub-Committee on Registration System Reform implies. Mina Watanabe represents a civic organization known as the Japan Committee on Listing Comfort Women on the World Register. In order to have the memory of “comfort women” listed by hook or by crook, those who congregated in Seoul, including Ms. Watanabe, have resorted to tactics that to us are far from fair. And the ‘coordinator’ is committed to their cause when he must remain absolutely fair and neutral. The fairness of UNESCO as an international body is plainly in question at this stage. Japan needs to take stringent counter-measures bearing this in mind.”
As noted before, Edmondson has already declared that a revision of the registration system requested by Tokyo will not apply to the “comfort women” application. Furthermore, Ms. Watanabe, who together with Edmondson promoted the Seoul meeting, is secretary-general of the Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM) in Tokyo, and a director of a “human-rights” fund representing the museum.
Ms. Mio Sugita, a former upper house lawmaker who recently visited WAM, observes:
“There were exhibition panels displaying photographs of ‘comfort women’ in China and the Korean Peninsula, along with a no small number of documents, photographs, and illustrations concerning an event held in Tokyo in 2000, entitled Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery. Drawings with captions written in the Hangul alphabet and one showing a man, obviously the late Emperor Showa, blindfolded and tied to a tree, with several guns pointed at him, caught my eye.”
The “women’s war crime tribunal” was staged in Tokyo with the late Asahi Shimbun journalist Yayori Matsui playing a leading role. The “trial” was a complete farce organized by radical liberals, treating the Emperor Showa, who had already passed away by then, as a defendant without an attorney who naturally could not clear himself. Ms. Sugita says documents pertaining to this trial were also on display, in addition to a book entitled The Complete Works of Yayori Matsui, about which she has this to say:
“I thought the book was awful. It says she did everything she could to help democratize South Korea and includes a number of articles she wrote, including those written as an Asahi correspondent in Singapore. I couldn’t believe how she could possibly write so many articles portraying Japan as such a villain.”
UNESCO Coordinator Must Be Replaced
Journalist Hiroshi Hasegawa, who was with the Asahi as Matsui’s contemporary, notes in his book Collapse of the Asahi Shimbun (WAC, Tokyo; 2015) that when Matsui visited a remote mountainous region in Malaysia as a Singapore correspondent (1981-1985) assigned to report on the wartime conduct of the Japanese military, she is said to have told the local people that it was alright to regard all those killed in centuries-old ethnic clashes there as having been murdered by the Japanese military and leave it at that. In fact, her criticism of Japan is based on a strong anti-Japanese sentiment that is full of distorted facts and fabrications.
WAM’s Watanabe obviously comes from a network of liberal activists who had personal connections with Matsui, and are seeking to follow in her footsteps. Working closely with Watanabe are two South Korean and one Chinese human rights activists: Ms. Shin Hei-soo, who is former co-representative of the “(South) Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan”; Ms. Han Hei-jin, who served as an investigator for the “Truth Commission on Forced Mobilization under Japanese Imperial Rule” and the “Presidential Committee for the Study of Collaboration with Imperialist Japan”; and Su Zhiliang, who is a professor at Shanghai Normal University.
Su serves as the director of the Chinese Comfort Women Institute at his university and the director of the first Chinese Comfort Women Archives in Shanghai. Su’s book—Chinese Comfort Women (Oxford University Press; 2015)—is based on absurdly anti-Japanese fabrications.
UNESCO’s Edmondson collaborates closely with these and other activists to try to encircle and attack Japan. Clearly, an anti-Japanese network in terms of “comfort women” is being meticulously prepared at the international body.
Japan will be badly burned again unless it faces up to this situation resolutely. First and foremost, Japan must demand that Edmondson, who clearly is listening to only one side of this debate, be replaced. Japan must also vigorously lobby UNESCO to consider the “comfort women” application on the basis of the revised registration system expected to come into effect next April.
(Translated from “Renaissance Japan” column no. 724 in the October 13, 2016 issue of The Weekly Shincho)